Spanish rice and refried beans

Everybody loves Mexican food.  Admit it.  You love Mexican food.  And if you don’t love Mexican food, it’s probably because you’ve never had good Mexican food and that is probably because really good Mexican food is hard to find unless you live in Mexico or somewhere near the border.  Trust me.  I had it in Manhattan once.  It was horrible.  My rule of thumb is that if the people in the kitchen and the people eating in the restaurant aren’t Mexican, you should not eat there either.

You might be saying to yourself, What does this sassy white girl know about Mexican food anyway?  Well, I borrowed (stole) one of these recipes from a friend of mine who comes from a big Mexican family and I’ve lived in California most of my life so this is at least 75% legit.  Did you follow that logic?  Doesn’t matter.  These dishes are fantastic.

First let’s start with the Spanish rice, a dish first introduced to me as something that comes out of a box.  Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is yummy, but the authentic stuff really isn’t much harder to make and is so very very tasty.  Last year, when we were living in Chile and jonesing for some Mexican madness (because no, they don’t have much Mexican food in Chile because no, not every country south of the border has the same culture or even crops) my friend Lindsey shared with us her abuela’s (grandma’s) recipe for Spanish rice.  Here’s what ya need:

1 cup of white rice (rinsed)

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 cup of tomato sauce

1 cup of water

So, chop up that onion into little bits and mince the garlic.  These measurements can be adjusted to your liking.  I like a lot of onion and a lot of garlic but it’s really up to your taste.  Heat up the oil and throw the onion, garlic and rice into the hot oil.  Stir it around and allow the onion to soften and the rice to toast.  You want it to be a little brown, but be careful not to burn it because that’s gross.

Once the rice is toasty and the onions are softy, pour in the water and tomato juice.  Cover that baby up, turn the heat down real low and you are set!  After that you just treat it like normal rice, except perhaps giving it a stir now and then because with the extra ingredients it’s a little more likely to burn than normal rice.  It takes about 30-45 minutes.  I like to actually take it off the heat before it’s quite done and let it sit with the cover on for another 15 or 20 minutes.  That usually keeps it from overcooking or burning.

Onward to the beans.

So, I’m in Chile right now.  If you want an explanation as to why, go here: http://lavueltachile.blogspot.com/

If you don’t care, continue reading.

In Chile they sell refried beans in a can, but instead of being 99 cents like at your local Trader Joe’s, they are like $4 and they’re not even that good.  So if you want good beans you have to do them yourself.  And I mean do it yourself.  Ingredients are as follows:

1 cup dry pinto beans (you don’t need to soak them, they’ve all been lying to you!)

3 bay leaves

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 hot peppers (jalapeños are the best)

1/4 cup of vegetable oil

2 teaspoons of cumin

Salt to taste

Beans go in the pot.  Bay leaves go in the pot.  Water goes in the pot (just enough to cover the beans).  Pot goes on the stove.  Then, we turn the heat up, not quite all the way and let the beans linger somewhere between a simmer and a boil.  We don’t want them in a rolling boil, but they need something a bit stronger than a simmer. 

The beans need to boil in a covered pot for close to 2 hours.  It’s a bit of a process, but it honestly isn’t sped up at all by soaking the beans.  So, just don’t soak the beans.  While they’re boiling make sure to keep an eye on them and add water as it evaporates to keep them covered.

Since you’re a boss and you can do a million things at once now is also the time to do some chopping.  Mince the onion, pepper and garlic.  Again, these are all subject to your tastes.  I love strong flavors and I love vegetables (or whatever garlic is) so I load the beans up, but if you want milder beans just take down the portions, or even leave something out.

So, you’ve chopped everything and 2 hours later you test a bean or two and you find that you can squish it between your fingers.  Congratulations!  You’re ready for the next step.  Seriously, though, your beans have to be really squishy.  If they’re not that squishy after 2 hours just boil them a while longer.  Nothin’ wrong with that.  But if they are squishy enough you may begin mashing them up while they’re still in the pot.  You can use a potato masher or the bottom of a glass if you’re poor like me and live in an apartment without a potato masher.  MASH THEM GOOD.  You can if you want remove the beans, mash them up, put them in a pan and continue the recipe from there but I hate doing dishes so I like to just keep everything in the first pot. 

The beans, now having been mashed, are begging for the other ingredients.  Just chuck them all in.  Keep the heat between medium and high and let those beans fry.  Stir them frequently to keep them from burning.  Let them cook for another 20-30 minutes then remove them from heat and let them cool, or serve them immediately.  You know, whatever.  They store great.  I made a giant batch and ate them every day for a week.  It was awesome.

You can pair these fantastic side dishes with just about anything.  I like mashing up an avocado and just making a big delicious avocadobeanricessnack or you can eat them with a white fish in tacos.  Or you can just eat them on their own, they’re that good!  Hope you enjoy your food coma!

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