My favorite thing at a taqueria is the beans. I’m not really that big a fan of the meat (fish/prawn tacos and the occasional carnitas not withstanding); generally my burrito jam is beans, cheese, and onions, drenched in hot sauce or salsa.
I became a huge fan of the Spilled Milk podcast a few months ago (completely randomly, I didn’t realize my fave Molly Wizenberg was one of the hosts), and I devoured all their shows in the course of a week or two of commute time. I highly recommend listening if you love hearing two nerds having fun talking about food and double-entendres. Anyway, they did a whole show on beans, which inspired me to try to cook dried beans myself (I never had before, believe it or not), and specifically refried beans, since I love them so much.
My first attempt turned out OK in terms of bean-cooking, but I burned the onions, which imparted a vaguely nasty flavor. They also were too dry (the recipe I used didn’t use enough broth for my taste). The second time, I didn’t burn my onions, saved more juice, and discovered how much nicer the consistency is if you use a blender (though I think my blender wasn’t all too happy about it, as it smelled like burned motor).
I do highly recommend the boil then bake method though – I had no trouble at all with undercooked beans, and it’s only 90 minutes with no presoaking!
Note: the below is a combined recipe from 2 sources, I’ll cite them at the end.
- 1 pound pinto beans
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup of onion, diced [I used more than this]
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 slices of bacon [or what I used – just reserved bacon fat]
- Salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 250
- Dump the beans into a large dutch oven or pot with tight-fitting lid. Pick out any broken pieces. Add the salt. Top with enough water to cover the beans by an inch and a half. Bring pot to a boil.
- Then cover the pot, and set in the oven. Cook for 75 minutes, but at about 45 minutes in, check on the beans. If they look too dry add some boiling water to the pot.
- After 75 minutes they should be done. Drain them, reserving 1-2 cups of bean broth (you won’t need all of that, but save more than you need)
- Fry the diced onion in the bacon grease for a couple of minutes, and then add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the drained cooked beans into the skillet, adding 1/4 cup of the bean broth.
- Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding more bean broth for desired moisture. Keep stirring the mashed beans in the bacon fat until the texture is a chunky paste.
- If you like your beans very homogeneous in consistency, give them a spin in the blender (in batches).
–Recipe mashup courtesy The Paupered Chef and Homesick Texan.
First attempt (a little dry, and burned oniony, but overall a good attempt):