Monday, July 30, 2012

Beans The Musical Fruit AKA Refried Beans in the Slow Cooker

Today I'm going to show you how I make refried beans in the slow cooker.  I have a little helper assisting me today.  I'm going to use 1 pound of dried beans, a big bowl for rinsing, a colander, water, nonstick cooking spray, my big 5 quart Crock Pot, inversion blender, and some seasonings.
First we need to rinse the beans.  I like to do this by placing the colander inside the bowl, pouring the beans into the colander, and then adding the water.  This way I don't have to pour the beans and water mixture through the colander.  I just lift the beans and colander out of the water.  While you're rinsing, check for any pebble or dirt lump imposters trying to hide in the beans.
If you're smart and you plan ahead (and I didn't) you will let these beans soak in this bowl with about 6 cups of water overnight.  This will greatly reduce your cooking time.  If you didn't plan ahead (like me) then you will skip this step.
Now we prepare the crock by spraying the inside with nonstick stuff.  I think the best option would be to use some olive oil in one of those re-usable cooking spray bottles to avoid the propellants in this canned stuff.  You will thank me for this step later when you have to clean the crock. 
Pour the beans and 6 cups of water into the sprayed slow cooker.  Crank that baby up to high and put on the lid.  I recommend that you check it every hour just to make sure that there is enough water to cover the beans.  The beans won't soften and cook if they dry out.  If you planned ahead and soaked the beans overnight, you will only cook them for a couple of hours.  If you didn't, like me, then you will need to cook them for 4-5 hours.
The beans are done when they are soft and smushy.  Now you have a decision to make: do I want my beans to be creamy and fatty or slightly less creamy and no added fat?  If you want them creamy, pour off a little water and add in a couple tablespoons of softened butter, olive oil, or for the traditionalist, melted lard.  If you don't want the fat, leave it the way it is.
Time to season!  I put 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning and 1 teaspoon of sea salt in this batch.  This is pretty bland.  My 5 yo doesn't like spicy food.  You can season it to your own preference.  It's important though that you wait to season until the beans are done cooking.  If you add salt to beans before they are finished, it will cause them to become tough.
This is where your inversion blender comes in very handy.  You're going to use it to reach refried bean texture perfection.  If you want your beans smoother and you feel like you've plateaued with the blender, try adding a tablespoon or two of water or oil and then blend again.  I try to clean the blender right away so I don't have to scrub off dried-on bean guts. 
Our little demonstration had made about 3 pounds of refried beans.  That's way more than I need for my recipe.  I'm going to freeze half of them for a month until I'm making Mexican food again.  They do freeze and thaw well.  If the thawed texture looks a little off, just give them a quick mix-up with the inversion blender.

Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!

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