Kitchen and garden: Refried beans, the musical fruit...
October 28, 2014 6:21 PM   Subscribe

...the more you eat them at awesome Mexican restaurants, the more you want to duplicate their magic at home. How, please?

My favorite Mexican restaurant serves excellent refried red beans. When I asked, I was directed toward Malher Refried Red Beans for sale in the back. Great! Not easily available nearby, alas (though a good excuse to visit the restaurant/grocery).

The grocery store around the corner does carry Goya Small Red Beans (Habichuelas Colorades Pequenas) in the can. Bearing in mind that I have never made refried beans from scratch, and that I have seen this previously, please walk me through the process of recreating the bean magic. Your recipes and tips are welcome.

I do have access to lard, bacon fat, and a cast iron skillet.

Part two of this question is for the gardeners: Where do I find these magic beans? I do NOT want kidney or pinto beans; I think I'm looking for something closer to this Montezuma Red Bush Dry Bean or this Red Mexican bush bean. Or not? Maybe you know of a better/more appropriate variety I can grow?

So: Please teach me to convert canned red beans into awesome refrieds, and point me toward a DIY planting solution for the longer term.

Many thanks!
posted by MonkeyToes to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
They use red beans because they cook more quickly (most I have eaten at do). I find them very flavorless no matter what I put in there.

I'd go with pinto beans. If you are going with canned, get a seasoned type and warm the beans up, then mash with potatomasher. Or non seasoned and mash in some Pace picante or other mild salsa.

If you are going with dried, cook in water (soaking optional) in a crock pot for at least four hours on high or longer on low. Season with onions (browned helps flavor) and garlic or equivalent powders. Add in a good beef stock or bullion as needed if you aren't worried about being vegetarian.

Once they are cooked, treat like canned. Put beans with some of the bean water in a pan, warm up, and mash to preferred consistency.

I object to Goya brand merely for their union breaking but YMMV. I use whatever local brand I can get with the furthest expiration date out there.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 6:39 PM on October 28, 2014

Rancho Gordo sells many wonderful dried beans, if you'd rather buy them dried than grow them. This is how they refry them.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think maybe the magic ingredient you might be missing is Epazote?

I think it is cooked with the dried beans.
posted by jbenben at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wanted to second the Rancho Gordo method. When I'm in the mood for exquisite refried beans, I soak and cook (I sauté onions to brown with some garlic and sometimes celery and carrot, depending on my mood then add the beans and cook), then do my refry with a bean masher (I bought mine on Amazon). It's not a fast process, but it makes amazing ones every time.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 7:08 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the pinto beans.

Also - okay, so, I save the bacon fat if I make bacon. So I have a pint-size mason jar in my fridge at all times, which usually is at least a third full of bacon fat. And the reason why it never gets any fuller than that is because I sometimes use it in recipes - especially if it's something that I could have used lard for.

So based on that - bacon fat in place of lard for refried beans. Try that sometime.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Epazote is a crucial ingredient. Warning, the dry stuff smells like gasoline. Don't let that deter you.
posted by Good Brain at 7:52 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's nothin' fancy, but I'll tend to pour some canned enchilada sauce on my refrieds, with some shredded cheese on top.
posted by doctor tough love at 10:05 PM on October 28, 2014

I use the rancho method. My guess is that inevitably the issue is that you need more fat and the quality of the lard makes a big difference. You want it to be just a bit porky.
posted by JPD at 5:17 AM on October 29, 2014

The Papeured chef --- whose 90 minute no soak bean recipe has been a revelation to me --- cites this Dian Kennedy recipe for refried bean perfection.
posted by Diablevert at 9:01 AM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

OK, I might not really be able to answer this because the regional mexican cuisine where I live is almost all pinto beans with the occasional black beans if you want to be trendy.

But this:
Please teach me to convert canned red beans into awesome refrieds
... does not go with duplicating cooking dried beans at home and turning them into refried beans.

But I'm really puzzled by why you are asking about how to go the easy route on starting with canned beans and also about the much more labor intensive route of growing your own beans. There's a middle ground between these where you just buy dried beans at the store and cook them from scratch. You'll have to get a large pot to cook them in.

Sometimes the dry beans are in a different section of the grocery store than canned beans. If you live in a place where people have yards for gardening and larger grocery stores, rather than a large city with no yards and small grocery stores, they should be easy to find.

Co-op grocery stores or places like whole foods often have a bulk food section with many types of beans. These may or may not be a different variety than what's in bags in other stores. In addition to cooking them, you can also plant them. They might not have as high a percentage of ones that grow as beans sold as seeds, but they are so much cheaper. Just start a bunch more than you want in, er, starter-things (I'm not good with gardening and don't know what to call them), and plant the ones that sprout.

(I admit that it's possible your favorite restaurant uses canned beans to make refried beans. If that's the case and you'd still like to think of them as having wonderful magical food you must absolutely avoid cooking beans from scratch at home. Growing them from seed will be out of the question unless you can them in metal first to get that special taste.)
posted by yohko at 2:11 PM on October 29, 2014

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