Saturday, December 29, 2012

Refried Beans

In the second SNAP challenge post, we showed how simple and cheap making up a pot of beans can be. Here, we continue on the simple and cheap food by showing how easy it is to cook up refried beans. Though many recipes for refried beans call for a lot of oil for the frying of the beans, that's not really necessary. The starch in the beans gives the mashed beans a rich texture. We add just a bit of fat to help carry the flavors.

Canned refried beans aren't bad and they are pretty cheap too. But these are really easy to make, and freeze great (you can double the recipe so you have a stash in the freezer). We think the homemade ones have a better texture and flavor.

As with the pot of beans, you have lots of opportunity to improvise here. If you cooked your beans plainly, you can add a sprinkling of chili powder, a dash of hot sauce, garlic powder, some chopped jalapenos. Saute these in the oil before adding the mashed beans if you don't want crunchy pepper bits in your beans. You can use vegetable oil, olive oil, or bacon fat. Olive oil and bacon fat each impart their own flavor to the beans, whereas vegetable oil is neutral in flavor. As garnish, you can add a light sprinkling of grated or crumbled cheese, or a bit of cooked sausage crumbles. You can toss in a handful of chopped parsley or cilantro. Or some diced raw tomatoes. They add nice flavors without a lot of cost. The beans are the main event here.

Refried beans with a sprinkling of hot New Mexico red chile powder for a bit of zip

Refried Beans
(serves 3-4, costs 65¢)

2 cups of cooked beans, plus some of the liquid
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
⅛ - ¼ teaspoon salt
seasonings of your choice

Mash up the beans with a fork, or puree in a food processor for a smoother consistency. If the beans seem dry, add a little bit of the cooking liquid. Mash up the onion and garlic too; they add great flavor.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet (see Note). Add mashed beans to skillet and cook until heated through. Serve in tacos, burritos, or a side dish or entree.

Note: You can skip the oil if you are cooking sausage or bacon to add to the beans. Cook it in the skillet first so that the fat renders out. Add more oil if needed to end up with about 1 Tablespoon.

If desired, saute a ¼ cup of chopped onions or a bit of green chiles in the oil before adding the beans. Or add them as a garnish after the beans are cooked. Very different texture if you don't cook them. See which way you like it better.

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