This is a Hess family staple, a dish that was present at practically every weekend gathering at my grandma’s house, every family shower or reception or graduation party at the local Mexican-American Hall that I can remember from my childhood. It’s simple as can be, can be made in advance, and can be batched up to feed a crowd. There’s nothing sexy about it, this is just humble, satisfying party fare. —lastnightsdinner
red onion, very thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
Juice of half a lime
refried pinto or black beans (you can use good quality prepared beans, or make your own as indicated below)
shredded Monterey Jack cheese
pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, halved if large
small ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced into half-moons
ripe Haas avocado, peeled, halved and sliced thin
To serve: corn tortilla chips, sour cream, salsa, pickled green chiles
plus 2 tablespoons rendered leaf lard, pork/bacon drippings, or vegetable oil
cooked pinto or black beans, with their liquid
dried Mexican oregano or marjoram
crumbled cooked Mexican chorizo, well-drained (optional)
Separate the onion slices and place them in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt, add the lime juice, and toss. Let sit for five minutes, then squeeze out the excess liquid and set the onions aside.
Spread the refried beans out on an oven/broiler-safe tray or platter. Scatter the cheese over the top then add the olives and onions. Place in the oven and bake until the beans and cheese are bubbling, then turn the oven to broil and cook just until the cheese and onions have browned.
Remove from the oven, arrange the tomatoes and avocado slices on top, place tortilla chips around the perimeter, and serve with additional chips, sour cream, your favorite salsa, and pickled green chiles on the side.
Warm the ¼ cup of fat in a skillet over medium heat until shimmering, and add half of the beans. Carefully add half of the bean cooking liquid, then mash the beans well. Add the remaining beans and liquid a little at a time, mashing after each addition. Stir in the cumin and oregano or marjoram. Cook until the liquid has evaporated and the beans are creamy, adding the remaining fat a tablespoon at a time if they look too dry. Stir in the chorizo at the end, if using, and cook until warmed through.