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Ultimate refried beans. March 2, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Tonight is Mexican Night at our Friday Night Supper Club, and as always, I’m cooking. I like to keep Mexican Night simple, fiesta-friendly, and fun, so I generally make refried beans and fresh salsa, and bring all the trimmings so folks can make their own tacos just to suit them.

But to my mind, not just any refried beans will do. Scan the ingredients list below and you’ll see that my refried beans are packed with flavor and good-for-you ingredients.

           Silence’s Top Secret Disappearing Refried Beans Recipe

I call these Disappearing Refried Beans because if I make them for a gathering they have a bad habit of disappearing before I can even get any! (Our friend Ben knows better than to try that stunt.) So if you make them, make sure you save some for yourself before setting them out!

I’ll be the first to admit that I love the convenience of canned beans, but you can absolutely soak your own instead, and kudos for doing it. I’m also going to say as I do with pretty much every recipe that I’m an intuitive cook who tends to just toss stuff in rather than measuring it out. I find that most recipes—unless you’re baking—are very forgiving in this respect, so I encourage you to add more of what you like and less or even none of what you don’t. Courage! It’s going to be great! And if for some reason it isn’t, just serve a few rounds of margaritas or sangria before supper and everyone will love it anyway! Thus saith Silence.

Here’s the recipe:

3 cans pinto beans, or mix of pintos, black beans, and/or kidney beans (we’ve tried them all and they’re all good, but they will change the color of the finished dish, so be forewarned)

canola oil

1 large sweet onion (Walla Walla or Vidalia type), diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 large green bell pepper, diced

3-6 paste tomatoes, chopped

1 heaping tablespoon black or brown mustardseeds (do not substitute yellow mustardseeds)

1 heaping tablespoon whole cumin seeds

1 heaping tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon salt (we like Real Salt)

1 tablespoon hot sauce or to taste (we like Pickapeppa or Tabasco Chipotle)

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 1 tablespoon cilantro paste or 2 cubes frozen cilantro

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat oil in a heavy Dutch oven. (This is going to take up a lot more room than you think.) Add black mustardseeds, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and salt, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. (Add a little water or veggie broth or stock if necessary to prevent sticking.) Add diced onions and saute until clarified. Add diced bell pepper. Once pepper has softened, add chopped tomatoes, lemon juice, and hot pepper sauce. Stir in beans and liquid from cans (if using cooked dried beans, I suggest that you rinse and drain them, simply replacing liquid with water or veggie broth or stock as needed). When beans are thoroughly heated, use a heavy potato masher to squash beans into paste. (A strong arm is helpful here; thanks, Ben!) You don’t have to squash every last bean. The goal is to get a more pastelike consistency. Keep stirring to prevent sticking. Once the refried beans have reached a thick consistency, stir in the chopped cilantro or cilantro paste or cubes and serve.

Serving suggestions: We prepare bowls of chopped green onions (scallions), grated sharp white cheddar or Mexican cheese blend, sour cream, fresh and prepared salsa (see below), sliced black olives, shredded lettuce, chopped fresh cilantro, diced red and yellow bell peppers, chopped paste tomatoes (less juicy than other tomatoes, so ideal for this), and sliced jalapenos, and set them all out, along with a big bowl of rice and a platter of hot white-corn tortillas so everyone can make their own favorite creations.

Our friend Ben enjoys loading up crispy tortillas with beans, cheese, and toppings, and making a separate salad with the lettuce and more toppings, while I prefer skipping the tortillas and creating a platter with rice, beans, and toppings, including plenty of lettuce. Everybody will have a preference, and that’s part of the fun of setting it all out and letting everyone make their own.

As a fabulous dip: Here’s a serving alternative: Turn these yummy, spicy refried beans into the base for a 7-layer dip. Cook them until they’re really thick, then add a layer of them at the bottom of a souffle dish or other straight-sided serving dish. Top with layers of shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, sliced black olives, chopped paste tomatoes, and shredded lettuce, and serve with lots of white-corn tortilla chips (we like Tostitos and Green Mountain Tortilla Chips) for dipping. We like this dip best when the refried beans are still hot.

And what about that fresh salsa? In a hurry or when tomatoes are out of season, I’ll usually just grab a container from the produce section of our local grocery. But it’s easy to make your own, and so much fresher and better! See for yourself:

           Fresh Salsa a la Silence

1 large sweet onion (Walla Walla or Vidalia type), chopped

1 large red bell pepper, diced

3-6 paste tomatoes, chopped

sliced jalapenos to taste

chopped fresh cilantro to taste

1 teaspoon salt

splash lime juice                 

Mix, chill, and serve.

What can I say? Yum!!! Make up a batch of my refried beans and fresh salsa, and you may find yourself time-traveling to Margaritaville or Tijuana (“that Mexican border town,” in the words of Jimmy Buffett) in your mind for a weekly Mexican Night of your own!  

                            ‘Til next time,

                             Silence

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