Random notes on Mexican

Refried beans

“Refried beans” (frijoles refritos) aren’t beans that are fried twice; the prefix re- is much alive in Mexican Spanish where it denotes not so much repetition as intensity: “very fried beans”.

Refried beans are pinto beans soaked overnight, then stewed to soften them. Drained of most of their liquid, they are mashed into a paste then fried in lard or vegetable oil. Onion, garlic and other spices may be added; just as for Indian curry, these aromates are sautéed in oil to bloom their flavor fully before adding back in the beans. The cooked beans are sometimes mashed again and soaking water or stock is added to thin the resulting dish out before serving.

I have so far not wearied any Mexican friends for a recipe as life is too short to begin spending time making some that can be bought in acceptable quality from the grocer—although I’m assured that this is not actually the case, so I’ll have to try it once.


Avoid getting enchiladas stuck together in the oven before serving by thoroughly frying the tortillas. Then fill and roll them as quickly as possible because they will become hard. They will resoften as they soak in the chili sauce.


This word is widely spelled chili, but discouraged as that spelling refers to a Southwestern America dish (chili, chili con carne, etc.). Wikipedia affirms that chile is the American including Latino spelling except in countries like Chile where the fruit is known as ají. (The name of the country comes from Quechua words chin “cold” or tchili “snow”.

Chilli is the original Romanization of the Aztec word for the fruit and is preferred according to Oxford English Dictionary which also lists chile and chili as variants.

I use either chili or chile throughout my recipes mostly depending on when I typed it up.

Don’t be afraid to blacken chilis over a flame completely. It fills the house with a delicious aroma and when you rub off the blackened skin, the flesh will have suffered no harm. The more thoroughly blackened, the easier the task. I do it over my gas cook top, then rub the skin off under a thin stream of water at the sink.

You can remove the veins and seeds from chilis before roasting. They are tougher then and will resist splitting from end to end. The smaller the split, the better when making chilis rellenos.


Make the rice less tomatoey and let the rice spend more time pearling in the oil before adding liquid to get the sort of luscious product served in (the more authentic) restaurants (around here anyway).