Refried Beans

1-Soak, 2-Boil, 3-Mash, 4-Bake, 5-Hold

1-Grab yourself some dry pinto beans and sort through them if you are worried about rocks. Put them into a big pot and cover them with cold water—too much water is totally ok, not enough water is bad. Say perhaps add water up to a couple of inches above the beans. Or three inches! Four!! Then leave them at room temperature overnight.

2-After the beans have soaked for at least 8 hours or so, drain all the water off and them and rinse them once or twice (let’s not be obsessive here, ok?). Add some fresh water, enough salt so you can just taste it in the water, and 1 or 2 yellow onions per pound of dry beans, with the driest skin removed and the onions cut into halves or quarters. These will be discarded after the beans cook.

3-Boil the beans until they are delightfully tender (TENDER! As in “squishes ALL THE WAY easily in your fingers.” Not “mostly tender,” not “al dente…”) This will take perhaps an hour? An hour and a half? Should be less than 2! Then remove them from the heat and carefully get those onions out and toss them into your compost pile. Those onions have done their work and are no longer needed.

DO NOT DRAIN OFF THE WATER. Scoop or strain the beans out of the broth and into a mixer. I prefer to use a wire whip but a flat beater works fairly ok. The ones at the reunion were mashed by hand with a potato masher. 🤦🏻‍♂️ You could use a hand mixer, too (watch out, those beans are hot). Start the mashing, as you would potatoes, adding the liquid from the cooked beans as needed and a bit more salt to taste. It is best to taste for saltiness after they are well mashed.

The resulting mashed beans should be POURABLE, perhaps along the thickness of stirred-up sour cream, or maybe like mayonnaise, or that runny all-natural peanut butter in a jar when it is at room temperature. Too thin is ok–you’re going to add and add and add more liquid anyway. Peanut-butter consistency is not ok. If they are tougher to stir than buttercream frosting, add more of the bean-pot broth or plain water if you don’t have enough of the broth left.

4a-Into the bottom of a roasting pan add enough oil to more than coat the bottom and the sides. It needs to be enough that it is pooling up, not just coating the bottom. These babies have to fry in the oven. Just ignore the oil! Pretend it’s good for you! Beans are yummy and it’s totally worth it anyway. Peanut oil is the best. Canola is fine. I would avoid EVO as it is rather fruity in taste. After the roasting pan (NO, not a cookie sheet, but a casserole dish is ok) has oil glopped all over the bottom pour in the beans SAVING ROOM FOR THEM TO EXPAND IN THE OVEN. You are going to stir these puppies a few dozen times, and they will be piping hot and soupy, so make sure you can pull the oven rack out and get a spoon or a spatula in there for stirring.

4b-Put the roasting pan or pans into a 400º oven. This is going to take a couple of hours and a lot of stirring. The beans will bubble and bubble and the edges will start to look like they are getting dry and crusty. When the edges get that way open the oven up and carefully stir the beans in a nice, slow, scraping motion from the edge in towards the center. All of that crusty stuff is not only fine–it’s where they are doing their re-frying! There will be no crusty or gritty when it’s all said and done. But realistically expect to stir the beans every 15 minutes or so for about an hour to an hour and a half.

5a-When your pan of beans is less pasty-pink and more chestnut brown they are ready to come out. At this stage you still have a ways to go, although they would be not only “just fine” but in all likelihood much better than anything you’ve had in a restaurant and WAY better than any can in the world. This is also a good stage to stop and freeze them if you need to. Then you can continue on to step 5b in the future when you are ready.

5b-Here’s your last secret trick. Get yourself a slow cooker, and again soak the bottom and sides with a little more oil (no pooling this time, just a little stick-resistance). Pour those beans in and set that puppy on high. Cover it and ignore it until the beans are bubbly all along the edge. At that point you need to start the stirring again—scraping all the edges in to the center. You’ll easily be able to see how the color is darker at the edges before stirring and lighter in the center. That darker brown is your secret superpower. That’s where all the extra-good flavor is.

You could easily leave the beans in the slow cooker all day and they will only ever get better and better. PINK-ish is bad. BROWN-ish is good. Keep stirring and keep adding water if they are too thick, just plain tap water. Again, they should be “loose” in texture in the pot, not at all hard to stir. No stiff peaks here! Not even soft peaks! We aren’t making meringue.

The end. Eat well. ♡ ~John

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