I don’t really like refried beans…or, so I thought.
When I eat at a Mexican restaurant, I’ll typically ask them to substitute black beans (if possible) or just take a few bites of the refried beans on my plate (the bites with the cheese, of course). I’ve just never found them particularly flavorful and I think I’m also a little turned off by the texture. That was, of course, until I made my own refried beans…which I didn’t realize at the time were refried beans.
Drawing up my menu for the week, I wrote this side dish I had dreamed up in my head as “mashed pinto beans with bacon.” This got me wondering how exactly refried beans are made and it turns out that, well, they’re not exactly refried. In actuality, most refried beans call for pan-frying beans in some type of fat (oil, lard, bacon), which is what makes them refried. Well, actually it’s what makes them “well-fried.” According to Rick Bayless, “refried” is just a poor translation. So, it looks like what I’ve made here really are refried beans but with some added flavors, manchego cheese, and I’ve kept the bacon right in there rather than just using drippings. As for the texture, when you make these at home you can control that far better than what you eat when you’re out, so I made mine a little thicker and chunkier. We absolutely loved these, and it’s nice to have a new bean side dish in the rotation instead of eating black beans all the time!
Mashed Pinto Beans with Bacon and Manchego (kicked up refried beans)
2 strips bacon, sliced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
2-3 Tbsp. shredded or grated manchego cheese
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Fry until the bacon is cooked and starting to crisp. If you are using excessively fatty bacon, you may want to pour off some of the drippings. Otherwise, leave everything in there as-is.
To the pan, add the onion and cook until tender. Stir in the garlic until fragrant, and then the chicken broth, cumin, beans, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a light boil and continue to simmer for 10 minutes (or for as long as you want, if you want to time it with your main dish).
Use a potato masher to press down on the beans, and mash to your desired consistency (adding more broth if necessary).
Once plated, top with the manchego cheese and sliced scallions.