Rellenos de Papa (Stuffed Potato Fritters)

DSCN1293I love kitchen gadgets and accessories. Unfortunately, not all of my gadgets will get moved to London – you know space concerns, different outlet plugs, and such. So I want to use my gadgets before I put them in storage. The deep fryer is number one on that list. (My friends have even asked if I’ll have a deep fryer party).

Anyway, I’ve made today’s recipe before but I thought the deep fryer would take it up a notch. This recipe is a Puerto Rican recipe that is essentially seasoned ground beef, covered in potatoes, formed in to a ball, and then deep fried. Over the years, Ryan and I have made this recipe about a half a dozen times with mixed success. It always tastes good, but often the balls fall apart either while being formed or while in the oil. I thought using the deep fryer would help ensure good taste and good looks.

The true key to success is patience and preparation. You cannot make this recipe when you get home from work and want dinner – time is necessary! The mashed potatoes have to be cold so they can hold their shape. It is also important that the beef is cool. The meat doesn’t have to be cold, but if the meat is hot they will heat the potatoes, and then you’re in trouble.  The oil also has to be really hot, which is where the deep fryer comes in because it ensures a consistent temperature. You can totally do this recipe in a pan, but it’s harder to keep the heat high especially if you over crowd the pan.

Anyway, I am really happy with the way this recipe turned out. And, although this recipe is labor intensive, I had so much fun making it. I had dinner first, and then started cooking so I wasn’t hungry as I prepped the meat and potatoes. I was flow state cooking baby! I just let myself cook how I wanted, it was easy and fun. I didn’t use a recipe and I let myself enjoy the process. I made the potatoes and meat on one day, shaped the ingredients into balls the next, and then fried them. Everything worked out really well, I only wish I could make the potato layer thinner so there could be more meat. But, still a very delicious recipe. The rellenos held their circular shape, the outside was crunchy, and the inside was warm and flavorful.

Final note, I didn’t make a perfectly even amount of meat and potatoes. I made some potatoes and some beef and then formed rellenos until I ran out of one ingredient. If you have leftovers, I’m sure you can find other ways to reuse them. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

1 lb ground beef

olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup sofrito

2 tbsp cilantro

cornstarch

peanut oil (or other oil for frying)

Directions

1. Peel the potatoes. Put them in a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil. Season with salt. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 40 minutes. (Note: keep the potatoes whole, you want them to be as starchy as possible so they’ll hold their shape later).

2. Drain the potatoes, and mash them until all large lumps are gone. The potatoes can still be a little bit lumpy, they shouldn’t be totally smooth. Put them in the fridge until cold (I put them in the fridge overnight).

3. In a medium pan, heat olive oil. Add in the garlic and onion and cook until soft (5ish minutes).

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4. Add the red pepper and sofrito. Cook until the pepper has softened, about 5-7 minutes.

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5. Add the ground beef. Break up with a spoon, and heat until cooked through.

6. Turn off the heat and stir in the cilantro.

6. Once the beef is done, drain on a paper towel. Let it cool until it’s easy to hold in your hand (I stored it in the fridge overnight).

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7. Add oil to the deep fryer and heat to 350°. Alternatively, if you’re using a pan heat an inch of oil until it’s very hot.

8. When the potatoes and beef are cold, it’s time to form the balls. Coat your hand with a thin layer of mashed potatoes. (I’ve read you can do this using an ice cream scoop, but I don’t have one so here is my method)

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9. Put a spoonful of  ground beef in the middle of your hand. Cup your hand to start forming a ball shape. Add additional mashed potatoes to close the ball.

10. Use your other hand to tighten the shape and create a tight ball.

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10.5. This isn’t a real step, but I recommend putting the rellenos you aren’t actively cooking on a plate and in the fridge. Keep them cold so they won’t break before frying.

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11. Put some cornstarch on a plate. Roll the rellenos in the cornstarch until completely covered.

12. Put the rellenos into the oil. Cook for 6 minutes (some areas will be a little brown).

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13. Remove from heat and drain on a paper towel. Let cool a bit.

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14. Serve and eat.

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4 spoonMessy level: This is a highly messy recipe. The potatoes, beef, and rellenos are basically three separate recipes. The messiest part is making the rellenos because potatoes will get all over your hand. Cornstarch also gets everywhere and if you aren’t really careful and delicate the rellenos will fall apart. It’s very messy – but if you give yourself the time it’s a fun recipe to make.

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