Prep 4 hrs 40 mins
Cook 35 mins
About these fried Cuban potato balls. More popularly named Papas Rellenas, they are basically mashed potatoes formed into a ball and filled with a seasoned ground beef (picadillo), the fried to gold perfection. After searching high and low for a promising recipe, I decided not to follow just one, but to combine my research and just go from there. Because I try to avoid the messiness of frying food at all costs, I decided to try my hand at oven 'frying' them, which basically means just baking them at a higher temperature for about 20 minutes. I didn't really love the turn out, but I think it's because of the Panko bread crumbs. Normally, I love using Panko for breading, but not with these. So, lessons learned here? Stick with regular bread crumbs or flour, and fry these babies. You don't have to have a deep fryer to do so. Instead, let them fizzle in a layer of oil that is only deep enough to cover half the ball, then flip once during frying. These take a while to form each ball, but once you have the plate full of fried goodness, you'll forget about all the labor.
- 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1⁄2 lb ground beef
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1⁄4 cup white wine
- 5 ounces olives stuffed with pimientos (chopped small or minced)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 2 eggs, beaten (or more as needed)
- vegetable oil
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, boil the potatoes until fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot away from the heat. Mash the potatoes or push through a potato ricer. It should be easy to shape into a ball (but don't shape them yet). Allow to set until cool enough to touch.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef and onion until the meat is browned. Stir in the garlic and onion until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Drain excess grease. Add the tomato sauce and wine, then lower the heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the olives and season with the spices and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for another 3 minutes then remove from the heat. If the meat mixture is not at the consistency you desire, you can transfer it to a food processor and pulse a few times to hash it up. This is completely optional.
- Scoop 1/4 cup portions of the potatoes and divide each in half. Press a dimple into the middle of each half to form small bowl like shapes. Stuff a tablespoon or two of the meat mixture into half of the bowls, then cover with the other halves and form a ball around the meat. None of the meat should be exposed.
- In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and flour. Dip each ball first into the beat eggs, then into the bread crumbs. Repeat for a crunchier texture. Layer on a lined baking sheet or large platter and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours before frying.
- Pour enough oil into a frying pan that is enough to cover half of the height of the balls. Heat the oil to 375 °F. Carefully drop the stuffed potatoes in the hot oil and fry on each side for about 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and serve immediately.