Leave the Lard. Take the Frijoles
Sat April 16, 2011 8:39 am


(Photo courtesy of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen)

Last month, Sarah Kliff, a food and travel writer for the BBC, visited Texas.

It was on the half-hour flight between Houston and Austin that realized I might be descending into some culinary trouble. I, a vegetarian for a decade now, was flipping through the Texas Monthly’s Cook Like a Texan issue I had picked up in the airport—and (not unsurprisingly) could not find a thing I could eat. Between raving recommendations for the best smoked brisket, fried catfish and grilled rib eye, I was left lusting after a lonely side dish of cheese enchiladas. Everything is bigger in Texas, I thought — vegetarians’ problems included.

Especially when those enchiladas can't be made right without chili gravy (and they're certainly no side dish)!

But we do have some good news for Kliff. When we ran that recipe for enchiladas, from Sylvia Casares of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen, as well as for her Mama Grande's Rice, we ran out space to include refried beans. And Casares makes those vegetarian.

Sure, when you've got access to the good stuff (like, from the butcher or your pig guy), lard is hard to beat, but for an everyday at-home batch of refritos, there's nothing wrong with (mildly flavored) olive or canola oil.

Read on for the recipe:

Sylvia’s Refried Beans

1 1/3 cups pinto beans, sorted and rinsed
9 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Note: You can make these ahead and freeze in an airtight container.

Place beans, water, and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 90 minutes. (Check the pot after one hour and add one cup of water if liquid is low.) Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Pour half the beans and half the liquid into a blender or food processor, adding just enough water to cover the beans if necessary. Purée on low for about one minute. Repeat with the remaining beans and liquid. (Note: If you do not have a blender or food processor, use a potato masher.)

Place oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onion and cook for about 3 minutes, then add garlic and continue to stir until onion and garlic are golden brown. Add the puréed beans, salt, cayenne, and black pepper.

Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, then serve. Makes six ½ cup servings.

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