With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, a lot of you are busy planning menus for your various fiestas. For me, Mexican entrees are no trouble to come up with. Most involve some combination of tortillas, peppers, onions, possibly chicken or another protein, wonderful spices, and certainly cheese. With that combination, it’s really hard to go wrong. Personally I always find side dishes more challenging – how to best complement your entree and keep the meal well rounded yet doable is not an easy task. Mexican rice and refried beans are the classic side dish staple served with practically every restaurant dinner combo out there.
In the past I mostly ignored the beans and rice entirely, pushing them to the side, until a fabulous Mexican restaurant in my hometown changed all that. We love their entrees as well as their rice and beans…and their amazing queso dip…and the two dollar margaritas on Tuesdays don’t hurt either! Anyway, I started liking refried beans – a lot. But as you all know by now what I don’t like is opening cans to prepare our food. Thankfully Elly provided an awesome base recipe that I have since made countless times and tweaked to our liking. Homemade refried beans are very simple to make, requiring less than 20 minutes of your time. As a bonus, they reheat very well so if you are entertaining and want to focus on your guests rather than food prep, just make them in advance and reheat when you are ready to serve. If you like them chunkier, you can mash them up with a fork or potato masher. For a smoother texture (my preference), a food processor works wonders.
2 strips bacon, chopped
½ medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp. ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or 1½ cups cooked pinto beans)
1 cup chicken or veggie broth, divided
¼ cup salsa (optional)
Shredded cheese and sliced scallions, for garnish
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until crisp, being careful not to burn. Remove the bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon, leaving the grease in the pan.
Add the onion to the pan with the bacon grease and cook until just tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the beans to the pan. Pour in about 2/3 cup of the broth, bring to a boil, and reduce to a light simmer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes or until the beans are soft enough to mash easily.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the salsa if using, and mash the bean mixture as desired. (You can add the cooked bacon back in or leave it out…it’s up to you.) For a chunkier texture, use a fork or potato masher. For a smoother texture, pulse the mixture in a food processor. Add up to 1/3 cup more broth for a lighter texture if needed (I always end up using at least 1 cup total of broth). Adjust seasonings to taste. Top with shredded cheese and sliced scallions. Serve.