Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Daunting No More: Refried Beans From Scratch

For many years, I've been telling myself I need to learn to make refried beans from scratch instead of buying them in cans.  I knew the price difference was huge, and the effort little, from switching from canned chili beans to making my own with a bag of kidney beans and some chili powder and other spices.  Yet, the idea of refried beans from scratch was one that I found daunting.

So daunting, that even though I knew I should (and could, with practice) do it, I kept putting off the actual attempting of this dish.  About two years ago, I tried it with a recipe I found somewhere.  Sounded simple enough: soak beans, cook beans, season beans, mash beans, serve. 

And it was simple, but it tasted like, well, crap.  It was awful.  So awful I put off trying again for a few more years.  I even found another recipe (with more seasonings) in the meantime, but was afraid of failure again, so put it off some more.

Until last week, that is, when I finally tried that newer recipe.  This time, with this recipe, I found success.  Refried beans really are easy.  You can make them from scratch, and they can taste good.  So good that my teenagers (teens are notoriously tough critics) loved them and requested them again just two short days later!

It seems that there are two secrets to 'like from the can' refried beans: season them before cooking, and whir them up in the blender instead of mashing them.

Now that I've shared those two revelations with you, here's the recipe:

Refried Beans

  • 1/2 pound (or 1/2 a one-pound package) dried pinto beans
  • enough water to cover them in a 2 quart sauce pan (4 cups or so)
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp chicken bouillon (I used the powdered kind, but I imagine a bouillon cube will work too)
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Sort your beans for stones, bad ones, etc, then rinse.  Place in a 2 qt pan and cover with water to about an inch above the beans.  Let soak overnight or 8 hours.

Add a bit more water if beans soak it all up, then stir in seasonings.  Don't add the butter yet.  Bring contents of pot to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally.  Once beans can be mashed against the side of the pot with your stirring spoon, they are done.

Get out your blender, and scoop about 1 cup beans and the tablespoon of butter into it.  Make sure to get some of the bean liquid in there too.  I set mine to "grind" and let it pulse for about 10 seconds, then shut off, stir, and add another 1/2 cup of beans and a little liquid if needed, pulse again, etc, until all the beans have been 'mashed'.

Voila!  That's it, you now have refried beans!

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