Saturday, November 15, 2008

Refritos (re-fried beans)

Buy a can of refried beans if you must, but there will be no comparison with the taste of homemade. My method is entirely made up by yours truly and must be considered “Nuevo Norte Americano.”

As so often happens with me, the inspiration for something comes from ingredients that are hanging around in the pantry, the fridge, or the freezer. In this case it was half a bag (about 1 ½ cups) of frozen black-eyed peas (which are actually beans), and some thin-cut top sirloin steaks which cried out for a good flattening and preparation as milanesa, breaded and fried thin beef as found in practically any Mexican restaurant. Oh, and a third thing: requeson, a Mexican ricotta-like cheese. We had this because Peter had made a Latino-inspired stuffed winter squash a few days ago.

You certainly can make this ahead by a day or two and reheat them while you prepare the milanesa. I’ll include directions for this just in case you want to try both of these together.

Refritos (refried beans)
1 ½ cups (more or less) frozen black-eyed peas
1 14.5 oz can pinto beans, well-rinsed
2 medium size tomatoes, peeled and chopped (canned are ok)
½ red onion, rough chopped
2 or 3 Hatch chiles, skinned and seeded (or substitute jalapenos to taste)
1 or 2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
3/4 cup chicken or beef stock
1/8 cup epazote leaves or cilantro, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

In a large sauté pan, cook black-eyed peas according to package directions. Set aside and wipe the pan clean.

Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 6-8 minutes. Place all ingredients in the food processor and whir them up to a rough texture (according to your preference).

Return the mixture to the sauté pan and heat to a low simmer, adding more stock if it seems to thick. Cook, covered, over low heat for 30 minutes after checking and adjusting seasonings. Remove the cover for part of the cooking time if the beans seems to wet.

Thin-cut steak
Egg, 1 per pound of steak
Breadcrumbs, unseasoned are best, but suit yourself
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

Pound the steaks to no more than ¼” thickness.

In a wide bowl, lightly beat the egg with a tbsp water. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Dip each piece of steak in the egg to coat completely. Dredge in the bread crumbs, pressing them into the steak so that they adhere. Carefully lay the meat on a wire rack over a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook. Season the tops of the steaks with salt and pepper. (You’ll do the other side while cooking them.) If you have an hour it will help the bread crumbs to set up and stick better when you fry the meat.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan until a tiny pinch of bread crumbs immediately sizzles when dropped in.

Cook the steaks in a single layer (in batches as necessary) for exactly 2 minutes per side, starting with the seasoned side up. When you turn them season the cooked side with salt and pepper. Remove to the wire rack which you have now covered with some paper towels. Cover with a sheet of foil and keep warm in the oven if you have to do more than 1 batch.

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