Next Level Side Dish: Duck Fat Refried Beans

Refried beans are delicious, plain and simple. Well, delicious when done right, that is. That crap in a can? Yeah, that's not what we're talking about here. I mean, those are fine, I guess, in the same way that eating straight from a garbage can is fine (I'm looking at you, Costanza). But there's a better path, and we're gonna take it right now.

To make refried beans, basically you cook the beans, and then you cook them again with the extra fat of your choice and some other goodies tossed in, hence: refried beans.

Traditional refried beans are made with lard (i.e., rendered pork fat), but sometimes they can be made with vegetable oil (which results in a more "beany"-tasting end product), and on rare occasion they can even be made with butter — though the dairy fat creates a totally different bean experience. If you're cooking Tex-Mex, you might use bacon grease, but that tends to overpower the other flavors and dominate the dish.

Today we will be doing something a little different. We're using duck fat for some highbrow beans that might well be the best thing you've tasted in a while. There are some aromatics and spices in there, but only really as a base to elevate the flavor of the beans and the fat. These have a super-luxurious mouthfeel and are bursting with fatty, beany goodness. If you can find the Mexican herb epazote, you can use that here (legend has it that it can reduce flatulence; just sayin'), but if not, oregano is pretty delicious in there as a substitute (though it lacks any sort of anti-flatulent properties, I can assure you).

Next Level Side Dish: Duck Fat Refried Beans
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  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • water
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 3 serrano peppers
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs fresh epazote (see note) or oregano
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 3 serrano peppers
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 cup duck fat
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup light Mexican beer
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack or Oaxacan cheese
  1. Soak beans overnight in water.
  2. Strain beans and discard liquid.
  3. Put beans in large pot (I used my Dutch oven) and cover with water.
  4. Add onion, serrano peppers, garlic, and epazote/oregano.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a hard simmer and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep any beans from sticking to the bottom and burning.
  6. Remove serranos, garlic cloves, and large pieces of onion that haven't completely broken down.
  7. For the next step, you can either get another pan dirty, or a mixing bowl dirty, up to you (I chose the latter). Basically, you can move the beans to a mixing bowl and continue in the same pot, or you can use an additional pot if you have one big enough.
  8. Melt duck fat in your pot on high heat.
  9. Blend the onion, garlic, serranos, oregano, and cumin.
  10. Add your blended mix to the fat, and fry for about 2-3 minutes.
  11. Add the beans and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  12. Add the beer, and cook an additional 10-12 minutes. The beans should still look fairly liquid at this point, but that's mostly just because they're molten.
  13. Beans are now ready to eat if you want, but to serve it up right, move them to a large baking/casserole dish.
  14. Turn on your broiler, and top the beans with cheese.
  15. Melt the cheese under the broiler, and you're ready to go.
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