First of all, it’s impossible to discuss refried beans without pointing out the obvious: it’s hard to come up with a more unappetizing adjective for a dish than “refried.” Right?
Nonetheless, refried beans were, for me, a nice treat I always looked forward to eating whenever we went out for Mexican (or American-Mexican, let’s be honest) food. But the thought of making them at home never occurred to me until several weeks ago, when, while yearning for refried beans, I googled it, just to see how hard it would be to make. Lo and behold, to my great surprise, an incredibly easy (and surprisingly healthy) Emeril Lagasse recipe popped up. It’s since become a go-to recipe, not just because it’s healthy and great, but because it’s easy and quick. Make the beans, pop baked potatoes in the microwave, make a quick salad, and dinner’s ready to go. Our modified recipe is below. It makes enough for dinner and our lunches the next day.
1. The night before you want to make the beans, dump 2 cups of dried pinto beans into a large casserole dish. Cover the beans with water (the water should be about 2 to 3 inches above the beans) before you go to bed.
2. When you get up the next morning, drain the beans and rinse them in cold water.
3. Put the beans in a crock pot and add 2 tablespoons each of cumin, coriander, chili powder, minced garlic, and a bay leaf or two. Don’t put in any salt (using salt while cooking in the crock pot will dry the beans out).
4. Cook the beans on low all day.
5. When you get home from work (or about 8 to 10 hours later), turn off the beans.
6. Heat up 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add several tablespoons of minced garlic. While heating, chop 2 onions.
7. When the oil is hot, saute the onions and garlic for approximately 3 minutes.
8. Mince 5 to 6 tablespoons of jalapeno peppers and throw them into the pot, along with 3 more tablespoons of chili power, 3 teaspoons of cumin, and 1 teaspoon of salt (keep in mind, though, that we like everything very spicy–taste the beans as you’re spicing). Stir everything around for about a minute.
9. Put all of the cooked beans in the skillet, along with the majority of the cooking liquid from the crock pot, and begin mashing up the beans. We use a big wooden spoon because we don’t have a potato masher. Use a potato masher if you have one.
10. Take a quick break from the beans to put baked potatoes in the microwave. Microwave for 5 minutes, then flip them over, and microwave for another 5 minutes.
11. Keep stirring, mashing, and cooking, pouring the rest of the crock pot liquid in the skillet about 1/4 of a cup at a time. Continue this until the beans reach your desired refried beans consistency (sometimes it takes us 20 minutes, other times it takes 10).
12. Cut open the baked potato, spoon the refried beans into the potato, add as much Cheddar or Mexican cheese as you desire, and add lots of ground black pepper and cilantro. If you have scallions, chop them up, and sprinkle them on top of the beans.
13. Make a salad while the beans and potatoes cool, so you don’t burn your mouth.
14. Eat it all up.