I’ve looked at this recipe a hundred times or more while paging through one of the church lady cookbooks. It was just a handwritten page with my name written in the corner by my dad. I didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t even look at it long enough to see that the recipe was for ‘Mexican Refried Beans!’, because the heading was written along the side and not the top. And then it all came together. ’12-90 H Sautner’ was not for ‘Holly’ it was from ‘Helen Sautner’, my grandma…and my dad must have gotten it from her in December, 1990.
I don’t have many things from my Grandma Helen….as a matter of fact, I didn’t know her actual name was Helen for the longest time, because everyone called her Nell…..except for me…I called her ‘Grandma’. So, to finally have something of hers, a recipe no less, is a super great find and I am thrilled to share it with all of you while making it for the first time.
Get some beans.
What kind, you ask? I bought kidney beans, but to be honest, I’ve never really thought about what kind of beans made up a traditional refried bean dish. I’ve come to the conclusion it is the kidney bean….but you go ahead and use whatever you like.
Put your dried beans in 6-8 cups of hot water. Bring it up to a boil and reduce to a simmer, putting the lid on, leaving a bit of a gap, so that steam can escape. Now, go about your business for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Watch a movie. Do laundry. Pet your cat. Whatever. Let the beans do what the beans do.
Test a bean and make sure it is soft and not crunchy in the middle. Drain the water from the pot and mash those beans with a potato masher. You can mash them to your preferred consistency. I didn’t want them smooth as silk, I like my beans devil-may-care, so I mashed a bit and didn’t fret when I saw whole bits of bean here and there.
Add your other ingredients: chopped onions, garlic, diced peppers, tomatoes, paprika, chili powder, pepper, and salt. I added A LOT of salt. Salt makes the world go ’round. Mix it up until incorporated.
At this point, it will begin to smell delicious.
Put the heat on low and let it cook slowly, about 1 1/2 hours. Every few minutes, go ahead and stir it. You don’t want it getting stuck to the bottom of the pan, but you do want to make sure that it begins to dry out.
All this slow cooking and stirring will soften the onions and meld all the ingredients together.
Begin the drooling now.
After 1 1/2 hours, you are ready to begin the frying part of the ‘refried’ beans.
Take some Crisco. Don’t be shy! Put 2 tbsp. in a heavy skillet. I used my iron skillet. (Hey, it helps me get my daily dose of iron!) Make sure the heat is medium to medium-high. Drop spoonfuls of the mashed bean mixture into the hot skillet until you have formed a plateau of beans. Cook for about 2 1/2 minutes, then flip it over and cook for another 2 1/2 minutes. Try not to burn the beans. Remove beans from skillet, add more fat and fry the rest!
I had no idea how easy this was, how delicious the real thing was, or how excited I would be that I can now make homemade refried beans. I am also confident about adding more spices to my next batch to fire it up a bit. I ended up getting a bag of tortilla chips, adding some cheese on top of the beans and made a night of it!…..alone…..because, you know the saying about beans being the musical fruit, right?
Mexican Refried Beans
- 2 cups dried beans
- 1 cup chopped onions (plus 2 tbsp. onion for frying)
- 1/2 tsp chopped garlic (plus 1 chopped clove for frying)
- 1 small can chopped green chilies or 2 whole ones, chopped
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. chili pepper
- 2 tbsp. oil/Crisco/fat for frying
- Put 2 cups dried beans in 6-8 cups hot water and simmer on stove, with lid tipped, for 1 1/2-2 hours.
- Mash cooked beans with potato masher, when soft.
- Add all ingredients and cook slowly, stirring often so they don’t burn.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook beans until fairly dry, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Put 2 tbsp. fat in large skillet, add chopped clove of garlic and 2 tbsp. chopped onion. Cook until clear.
- Add beans by the spoonful, about 2 inches deep only. Turn and fry until dry, about 5 minutes total.
- Remove and repeat.
- Serve hot or cold, with or without salsa or tomatoes.