I like to think of this as a really great omelet alternative. It’s a simple yet very satisfying dish with just a few ingredients: fat, onions, and beans (and their liquid). Enjoy these beans with lots of lime juice, queso fresco, and corn tortillas.
I recommend using beans like the ones from A Really Satisfying Bean Broth, but one 15-ounce can of pinto beans works great, too; just make sure to add enough stock or water to equal the 1 cup of liquid needed.
Stay close to the stovetop with this recipe, as it’s a very active one. Here you are mashing, scraping, folding, and eventually flipping the almost dried, fried beans onto a platter. I recommend using a stainless steel pan because it’s light and will make flipping the eventual well-fried bean easier (although cast iron and nonstick will work, too). I recommend a 10-inch pan, but a slightly larger 12-inch one will work, too—just keep in mind that cooking time will shorten based on having more surface area to overheat.
- Heat a 10-inch stainless steel pan with sloped sides over medium heat. Once hot, add the lard or olive oil. Once the fat is melted, hot, and shimmery, add the onion with ½ teaspoon sea salt. With a flat-edged wooden spoon, mix the salt into the onions and cloak the onions with fat. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to high and mash the beans in batches by first adding 1 cup beans and their liquid to the onions, reserving the remaining beans and liquid mixture to add after. With a perforated potato masher, start mashing beans, liquid, and onions by making short punching movements and circular grinds. Keep mashing like this until the beans are about 70 percent broken down, creamy, and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides down in the pan, and then add the remaining beans and liquid (there will be more liquid than beans). Keep mashing vigorously while the beans bubble, becoming creamier and more homogenized as you mash. Keep mashing until you feel like you’ve gotten to a point your masher can do no more and only a blender could get it smoother—about 10 minutes of mashing.
- Once you’re done mashing, keep cooking over a high heat, scraping down the sides with the flat-edged spoon. Start scraping toward the center like you would an omelet. Keep doing this until the mash has thickened and it holds its own shape, about 10 minutes longer.
- At this point, turn down the heat to medium, and keep scraping the bean mash toward itself on all sides. Once the bean mash is very thick, able to hold its shape tightly and slide around in the pan if you shake it, scrape the mash onto one side of the pan and flush with the side. Cook like this for about 2 minutes to develop a crispy bottom (soon to be top) edge. Turn off the heat and gently slide the well-fried pinto beans so the bottom side is now the top. Serve warm with wedges of lime, queso fresco, cilantro, and optional warmed corn tortillas.
Christian is a California based chef, writer, and freelance recipe developer. He spent the last five years cooking as sous chef at Zuni Café. He has a bi-monthly cooking column in the San Francisco Chronicle and has words in Edible Magazine, Food52, and Epicurious. When he's not at home he's traveling to Mexico, exploring its cuisine and his heritage.