Whenever I visit a Tex-Mex restaurant, I always frown at the pile of sludge on my plate that is supposed to be refried beans. I'm not entirely sure why they even bother most of the time, since the beans always seem to be absolutely tasteless with a texture like paste. Every once in a while you'll get some with some black pepper to spice them up or a pile of cheese to give them some interest, but on the whole they're unappealing.
Then I tried the refried beans my Mexican friend at work makes. They had so much flavor I had to do a double take to make sure I was eating what I thought I was. They're silky and spicy with a deep flavor, and honestly, I could eat a whole bowl full, alone. Okay, maybe with some cheese on top. But they're still really really good plain. I only had to beg for a partial recipe and then make specific adjustments as I went, but I'm sure you all appreciate my efforts.
1 pound dried pinto beans
6 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons bacon fat, lard, or unsalted butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ medium onion, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon Knorr chicken and tomato soup powder OR ½ Maggi chicken and tomato bouillon cube
Place the pinto beans in a slow cooker and cover with the water. Set the cooker on low and cook for about 4½ hours, or until the beans are soft. Salt the beans after they are finished cooking, but are still in the water. Drain the beans, reserving the remaining cooking liquid.
Heat the bacon fat in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and crack the pepper into the hot fat. Add the garlic and onion, and cook until translucent. Add the beans, and immediately start mashing them into the fat and aromatics. Add the bean cooking liquid a little at a time until the beans are the correct consistency. Add the paprika and the chicken seasoning. Correct the seasoning as necessary with additional salt and pepper.
Makes 12 servings