I love refried beans. I always have. One of the first dishes I learned to cook on my own was sautéed carrots and onions with a can of refried pinto beans added to them. I used to make weird variations of this dish, like, say, adding canned tomatoes or peppers. The result was always delicious. For some reason, I have been embarrassed about my love of these smashed beans. I am not sure why, but I am now publicly announcing my love. And teaching you how to make delicious ones at home.
As always, you've got to start with good ingredients. I recommend taking the extra effort and exploring your local bean options. I got these from Rancho Gordo, who grow amazing heirloom beans and have many stories to talk about along the way. Pictured are Bayo Chocolate beans, the product of a partnership Rancho Gordo has with a company in Mexico.
1/2 pound dried pinto beans (soaked overnight in water)
4 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
1 dried ancho pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
Place beans in a pot and cover them with about 2 inches of water. Add half of a peeled onion (the full half, no need to chop), two bay leaves, and 2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled. Set over low temperature and let cook for 2-3 hours, or until soft.
Once the beans are cooked, strain and save the bean water. In a separate pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and place over low heat. Dice the second half of the onion and roughly chop two more cloves of garlic. Add to the pot with the oregano. Slice the ancho chile into strips and add to the onion/oil mixture. Stir over low heat until the mixture is soft and fragrant, usually 3-5 minutes. If your chile is really dry and tough, add a tablespoon of the bean water to help it soften up.
Take the onion mixture and place it into a food processor with 1 cup of bean water. Puree until smooth. Add the beans, salt and lime juice. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency. Add more salt or bean water as needed. Enjoy!