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Frijoles Refritos, con tortillas

December 11, 2006

frijoles refritos  

I realized the other day that the only Spanish I know is food-related vocabulary.

Yes, the big pot of beans I made Saturday night were refrito-ed on Sunday, and I also decided, while I had lard and everything, to go ahead and make tortillas, too. It was really a much easier project than I was anticipating.

Refrito-ed doesn’t actually mean refried. (Well, refrito-ed doesn’t actually mean anything at all.) It means they are overcooked, not fried twice. I guess it has something to do with the fact that “re-” as a prefix in Spanish is primarily used to add emphasis, and to indicate that there’s been extra-whatever happening. Wow, I’m bad at explaining grammar type stuffs. Anyway, my understanding of this meant that I just had to cook the crap out of those beans, which is pretty much what I did.

Buying lard really was kind of a funny experience, as detailed by the Paupered Chef guys. It was from their fish taco making post that I took my recipe for tortillas. They really weren’t difficult to make at all, which surprised me. The whole bean and tortilla process took about an hour, and that included doing all the dishes.

I realized I was going to have to cook the two things separately, as both seemed to require a fair amount of attention, so I started with the tortillas. (This also meant I could use the same pan for both, which I am always a proponent of–fewer dishes is good.)

tortilla pile

Here’s what you need for tortillas:

  • 3 c. flour
  • about 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. of lard
  • 1 1/4 c. of hot water

Mix the flour and salt together (whisks work well to make sure you don’t end up with unmixed clumps of salt, I think, though I might just imagine that). Then you’ll add the lard all in one clump, and break it up with your hands. You just want to kind of smoosh it into small, rice-sized pieces, and get them all coated with flour. You might think at first that there’s not enough lard, because it definitely doesn’t get incorporated into all of the flour, and at this point it isn’t at all doughy, but that’s ok. Just try to get the lard fairly well mixed in, and not in huge clumps.

Then add the water, in three batches, mixing between each addition. This is when it starts getting doughy. Again, you might not think it’s enough water, but i fyou get your hands into it and really knead all the flour into a big ball, you’ll be ok.

Divide the dough in half, and roll each portion into a cylinder shape, then divide each cylinder into about 8 smaller balls (this will make 16 tortillas). Let them sit out for about 15 minutes (and make yourself a tasty beverage, like I did).

tortilla balls

When you’re ready to make the tortillas, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and start rolling out the tortillas onto a floured surface. Of course, I didn’t have a rolling pin, and oddly enough there were no empty beer bottles in the house. Hence, I am probably the only person to have ever rolled out tortillas using an empty bottle of 1985 Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

 The timing of the cooking works out well so that while one tortilla is cooking you can roll out the next one. This is handy when you don’t have a big work surface. You’ll just cook the tortillas in the hot (ungreased) pan for about 1 minutes on each side. You can tell they’re ready to flip or take off the heat when they start to bubble up, and they should be slighly browned on each side.

I experimented with different thicknesses, but didn’t encounter the same “cracker” problem the Paupered Chef guys did when I rolled them thin. The only really hard part was getting them into circular shapes. I had to use a lot of flour to prevent them from sticking to the rolling pin, but they didn’t break up much, and it wasn’t hard to make them evenly thin all over. It was waaaay easier than pie crust. They should be about six inches in diameter, and not as thin as store-bought tortillas. The extra thickness is what makes them extra tasty.

Once you’ve fried up all 16 tortillas, they’ll be a-ok on a plate under a paper towel. They stayed pretty warm for over an hour, even on the transport over to the JJ. So they’ll be just fine while you’re making lard-filled beans.

Here is what you need for frijoles refritos:

  • Beans (cooked, as detailed here)
  • About 1/4 c. (eeek!) of lard
  • Salt and pepper

Of course, you can add other stuff if you want, like onions, chilis, cumin, cayenne, cilantro. I wanted to go a super purist route, plus I had all the onions and garlic already in the cooked beans, so I added nothing.

UPDATE: Mr. X and I discovered recently that if you add sofrito to the mix the beans taste just like beans from a taco stand in San Diego. We used Goya brand jarred sofrito, probably about 1/2 to a 3/4 of a cup. Delicious! Made me homesick.

Heat the lard in a cast-iron pan or deep skillet or heavy pot of some sort. I used the same pan that I used for tortillas. This is when you’d want to add your onions or peppers, if you were using them, and cook them until they are soft. Once the lard is melted, add the beans, about a cup at a time. Using a potato masher (bean masher?) just start smooshing them into a paste, and mixing in the lard. Once you’ve got them all smooshed and they’re looking a little less liquidy, add another cup of beans, and smoosh again. I added altogether about 4 cups of beans (half of the two pounds I made on Saturday). If you’re adding cumin or cayenne or salt and pepper (you definitely want to add salt and pepper) add it in between each batch of beans, and keep tasting to see what you need. Then just keep smooshing, and maybe mixing with a fork, over medium heat for at least 20 minutes, or until the beans are almost paste-like and not watery, much like the picture at the beginning of this post.

Now you’re done. Just put the beans inside the tortillas and eat them up. If you’re lucky, like we were, your friend Dmitri brought back tasty chili from Colorado, and you got to add that to your mini-burrito. You will also get to steal from cheese from the JJ and sprinkle a little of that in there. Then you’ll have a super tasty mean, and you will be happy.

Seriously, none of this required as much effort as I was anticipating. There is a reason people eat these beans at every meal–they are easy as hell and and all full of protein and stuff. Oh, and lard.

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