Refry beans in just a bit of fat for loads of flavor

A last-minute change in dinner plans last week saddled me with a husband craving nachos and a shortage of toppings.

Typically, I would load the chips and cheese with bits of whichever meat — chicken, turkey, pork or even lamb — that we’d roasted or smoked for the week. But I hadn’t managed to pull off that kind of advance meal-planning. So that left beans as our protein component.

Yet I couldn’t conscience black beans straight out of the can. I decided to add loads of flavor with just a tiny amount of meat. Spicy chorizo — the Spanish cured sausage, not the freshly ground mixture more common in Mexico — has been one of my recent addictions. A line of all-natural meats added to Food 4 Less’ inventory has tempted me enjoy a slice or two as a late-night snack for the past few months.

The ounce or so of chorizo, diced, that I had left on hand exuded a hefty dose of flavorful fat with just a few minutes in a medium-temperature pan. I skimmed out and reserved the crispy morsels of meat and mashed my black beans into the pork fat. And because the sausage was so well-seasoned with cumin and smoked paprika, I needed just a teaspoon each of Mexican oregano and smoked chilies to achieve the desired flavor.

After the beans cooked for 10 minutes and then cooled, they were firm enough to practically crumble over my nachos, topped with sliced jalapeno, scallions and the crisp sausage. Those results worth repeating, chorizo found its way into my shopping cart again this week.

Even lacking meat entirely, beans can soak up plenty of flavor from onion, garlic and spices. Here’s a vegetarian version that the Miami Herald touted last football season. With outdoor cooking season heating up, these would be delicious alongside grilled taco fillings or on crowd-pleasing nachos.

Tribune News Service photo

‘Nacho’ Average Refried Beans

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 jalapeño, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

Pinch cayenne pepper or chipotle powder, if desired

2 cups cooked pinto or black beans

1/2 cup bean-cooking liquid, reserved

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until onion is fragrant and translucent.

Add the minced garlic and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until fragrant, for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the cumin, coriander, optional cayenne or chipotle and the beans. Cook, stirring together, then pour in the reserved bean liquid. Stir everything together gently then reduce heat to medium.

Mixture will seem soupy at first, then thicken as it heats through and bean mashing commences. Mash by hand, using a large wooden spoon or potato masher for about 10 minutes or until you’ve broken up beans and mixture comes together with a consistency slightly thicker than hummus. You can also mash using an immersion blender, but aim for a rustic texture, rather than a fluffy, uniform puree.

Season generously with the sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Top with the chopped cilantro. Serve with chips, stuff them into a tortilla or add to nachos or seven-layer dips.

Makes about 2 cups, or 4 servings.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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