Papas rellenas are perfect Cuban comfort food, especially for people with easy access to them at Florida restaurants and cafes. Mashed potatoes are formed into balls, filled with seasoned beef, and fried until golden. In fact, papas rellenas is an excellent recipe for using up leftover mashed potatoes. First you prepare a seasoned ground beef filling, similar to an empanada filling. Then you mold mashed potatoes around the savory ground beef, forming the whole thing into an oblong shape – basically you make it look like a potato!! The croquette is deep fried until it’s golden brown and crispy. Kids especially love this meal, especially with ketchup on the side. I love my papas rellenas with some fresh dip, such as yogurt one.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites in two bowls. Mix the egg yolks into the mashed potato mixture, whisk the egg whites for a minute.
Take a 1/4 of a cup of the mashed potatoes, and form it into a ball. Make a dent in the ball, to give it more of a bowl shape. Fill the indentation with a tablespoon of picadillo, and then reseal it.
Reshape the potato as a ball again. Dip the ball in the egg whites, then roll the ball around in bread crumbs until it is coated. For a better coating, or for a crunchier texture, you may dip the ball into the egg whites again and coat it with another layer of bread crumbs. Refrigerate the potato balls for at least four hours before frying.
To fry, pour enough oil into a skillet or frying pan to cover half of the balls, the oil should be at least 350°F. Place several balls into the frying pan and cook on each side until golden brown, usually 2-3 minutes, taking care not to overcook. Drain the papas rellenas on paper towels, do not stack them.
The other cooking method is to deep fry the papas rellenas at 375°F until golden brown, they cook best deep-fried when they are frozen.
TO MAKE THE PICADILLO
1 lb ground meat
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small can tomato sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
Pimiento stuffed olives
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, brown the ground meat, onions and garlic. If meat is not too lean, pour out whatever fat you render.
turn heat down to medium low. Add the tomato sauce and wine. While it simmers, chop up the pimiento stuffed olives and add to meat mixture, it is ok to add a little bit of the brine if you wish. Adjust the seasonings per taste.