Refried Beans: “Southwest Slow-Cooking”

How can you slow-cook refried beans?

I have a cookbook I never use. Everyone has those, I know, but for me to own a cookbook and never use it there has to be something wrong with it. This one looks so beautiful. I had such high-hopes for it when I got it, but nothing that I’ve ever made from it has turned out well. The first time it was the fault of un-ripe tomatillos. The second time there was really no excuse. Dismayed, I put the book aside, until now.

I returned to it with skepticism. All I needed to do was make refried beans. Yes you can buy a can of refried beans for $1.00 when they’re on sale at the grocery store, but all that sodium…sometimes there’s even lard involved (the more traditional kinds) or tons of some other kind of disgusting hydrogenated fat or shortening. No, I would make my own. They’re even cheaper this way, and should be more delicious since they’ll be much fresher. The last time I made them was in my first Toronto apartment. I remember making a breakfast of refried beans, eggs and salsa. It doubled as lunch. Not brunch. I ate two meals of it that day. The beans were under-salted and under-other-spiced, but I still loved the texture. Beans are hard to digest, so I didn’t (and don’t) do this regularly, but sometimes I get a craving. They’re also about the only thing I like about brunches at restaurants (huevos rancheros), though I often am completely disappointed (I don’t ask what’s in the beans, they’re definitely never home-made, and I can’t have the sour cream anyway…but the guacamole can make the meal).

Anyway, I cooked up a bunch of black beans (pinto beans are just as traditional, if not more so), skimmed off the scum, and used turmeric to reduce the toxic enzymes that cause digestive woes. I heard they’re toxic, but please prove me wrong if you know better? I mean, not horribly toxic, but enough to upset your digestion a little (I think they work the same way as in nuts, and that’s why “raw” foodists pre-soak and dehydrate their nuts, as well as sprout them). Then I went to this book and found their refried bean recipe. It was too easy…

I didn’t cook the beans in the slow-cooker like they said just because you can’t skim off the scum that way. So I jumped to the next step of adding the spices. Normally refried beans having a “re-frying” step, as the name implies, but these say to just add the spices to the cooking beans. Nope. I will re-fry, thanks. So I turned to the internet and found another recipe that calls for cooking in pork fat and adding garlic and onion. Then I just did it my way…

I took about a chunk of my frozen lamb fat and melted it in a big skillet (lamb instead of pork, for flavour), then added 5 minced cloves of garlic. I let it cook for a good 8 minutes to caramelize it before stirring in the beans (about 2 cups), a tbsp of fresh oregano, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and 3/4 tsp of salt. The salt is what will really make it flavourful, so I don’t skimp here.

This all got stirred around to coat and then I tried mashing the mixture in another bowl to no avail. I gave up and tossed it in the blender in batches, pushing it down dangerously with a spatula to make it purée. The trick is to add a little water or broth to get it to the right consistency. Dry refried beans suck, but this shouldn’t be soupy either. Broth is more flavourful than water, but since this was going into another recipe, not just being eaten on its own, I wanted to be careful with the sodium content, even though I’d added a fair bit of salt already.

Well, it worked. My best refried beans ever. It was all about the fleur de sel I used. A little went a long way. The fresh beans were so much better than canned, too. It may look disgusting, but any Southwestern food-loving person would be hard-pressed to say these weren’t good refried beans. They made my Tamale Pie with Ground lamb, lamb sausage and chili-cornmeal crust to-die-for.


  1. (Ken) says

    Interesting mix of flavors there; beans, lamb, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, oregano… sounds like an East Indian moussaka :)

  2. (MissWatson) says

    The turmeric is a bit strange, I admit, but makes so much sense with any kind of bean. The lamb was my fault because I don't eat ground beef. Really it was supposed to be more of a spicy shepherd's pie.

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