This may not seem like your typical baby shower food, especially since it’s a more masculine “meat and potatoes” type of dish. But, this baby shower is different. We are celebrating my friend, Krystal, who blogs at Mrs. Regueiro’s Plate. The theme our gracious host, Joelen, put together was to focus on both mama and papa’s-to-be heritage, which happens to be Filipino and Cuban, respectively.
Not too familiar with either cuisine, I did remember one experience with Cuban food while living in California. A friend of mine introduced me to a Cuban bakery & café in Glendale where she insisted that I try their stuffed potato balls. Although I had already stuffed myself with my lunch order there, I found myself wanting to fill up even more with these fried to perfection treats. So, I knew this was what I had to make for Krystal’s Cuban themed celebration.
Before I talk about the recipe, let me talk a little about Krystal. After communicating with her through blogging and Facebook, I had the wonderful privilege of hanging out with Krystal last November when attending the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco. She is honestly one of the most genuine, fun, loving, super funny gals ever! I’ll never forget when we were sitting together at the Foodbuzz gala dinner, watching Tyler Florence from the front row with our cameras and finding out we were both snapping underwear shots. Sorry, Tyler, but it’s true! Here’s my best shot. Krystal, care to share yours?
Krystal just has this charisma that makes you feel like you’ve known her forever. Little “Cookie” (as the baby is currently named since they do not know the gender) is so lucky to have a mom like Krystal. I have no doubt that Cookie will be loved by her parents while very well fed!
Now, 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), then fried to golden 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 that plate full of fried goodness, you’ll forget about all that labor.
Krystal, I’m so happy for you and although we never got our chance to meet up a second time while I was also living in SoCal, I can’t wait until we our paths cross again! Especially so I can meet that sweet baby girl… or boy… or girl?
(You can check out the round up of recipes for Krystal’s shower at Joelen’s blog.)
- 4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons milk
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 5 oz olives stuffed with pimientos (chopped small or minced)
- 1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Salt and pepper
- 1 to 2 cups bread crumbs
- 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. Stir in 1 or 2 Tablespoons of milk to achieve a dough-like consistency, but not a wet dough. It should be easy enough 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 cook 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 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 it 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 beaten 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 the height of the balls. Heat the oil to 375 degrees 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.
Source: Recipe adapted from many online resources, too many to list.