Rev 1.02, last revised: 06-Jan-10
The bean is as much a part of Mexican cooking as pasta is to Italian cooking. Despite what the idiot 'book-shelf' health pundits may have you believe, Mexican cooking is both healthy and simple. Those that know how I cook know that I wouldn't settle for anything less.
At the heart of this simplicity is being able to make and cook the ubiquitous Pinto bean. Having a wonderful son-in-law of Mexican descent, I've learned--through him--to make and enjoy this wonderful legume like his mother, Angie, used to do. And, learning to make proper beans is a necessary skill if you're to master any other aspect of this tasty and sometimes fiery cuisine. The primary bean served in Mexican restaurants is the Pinto bean.
The pinto (Spanish for "painted") bean has streaks of reddish-brown on a background of pale pink. These beans are grown in the United States Southwest and are common in most Spanish-speaking countries, where they're often served with rice or used in soups and stews. The pinto can be used interchangeably with the "Pink Bean", which is lighter in color prior to cooking but looks the same afterwards. Both the pinto and the pink bean are commonly used in the preparation of Refried beans, and Chili Con Carne. Pinto beans are available in dried form year-round. They are also called red Mexican beans.
From time-to-time, check to be sure you don't cook the beans dry; adding a little water to keep the beans completely covered.
When done, beans are typically served directly from the liquid.
Or, you can mash them into the cooking liquid to make a paste of beans. To make refried beans, start here.
To save both time and energy, sometimes one can get ahead of the curve using a pressure cooker. Use this variation if you do that.
You should note that many recipes call for soaking the beans overnight and discarding the soaking liquid. I don't do that. I simply discard the cooking liquid. If making the refried beans further on, I simply add some water back into the frying pan when frying the beans.