In Puerto Rico in the morning it’s customary to run to your local bakery and grab some fresh baked Sweet Bread (pan sobao) or Pan de Agua (water bread), with some pastries and some fried delicacies (I know what you must be thinking… FRIED FOOD IN THE MORNING?! I didn’t make this up I just happily follow tradition, occasionally). The meat stuffed potato ball is my personal favorite but a lot of people go for the empanadas as well. Today I’m going to show you my take on the delicious Relleno de Papa! Let’s go!
Meat Stuffed Potato Ball (Relleno de Papa) – Latin Style
- 6 Medium Potatoes
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 tbsp EVOO
- 1 green bell pepper (diced)
- 1 red bell pepper (diced)
- 1 small yellow onion (diced)
- 3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
- 2 tbsp of sofrito*
- 3oz tomato paste (half 6 oz can)
- 2 tbsp Adobo Powder
- 2 packets Sazon con culantro y achiote
- 1 tsp Ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Salt to taste for potatoes
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 cup flour to dust hands
- 1 packet of saltine crackers ground up in blender
- 3 eggs
- Canola Oil, vegetable oil or corn oil for frying
1. Dice your peppers, onion and garlic. Sear in pan with your EVOO until softened about 5 minutes, add sofrito and mix well. Continue by mixing in your ground beef and adding the adobo, 1 packet of Sazon con culantro y achiote, cumin, oregano, paprika, and black pepper. Add the tomato paste, mix well and make sure your ground beef is crumbled well, I use the spatula to break it up. Cook until ground beef if fully cooked about 10 minutes on medium low to give it time to simmer and absorb the flavor.
2. While your ground beef is simmering, start peeling and dicing your potatoes. Do not chop into small pieces, medium size chunks are better. Cover with cold water in pot, salt generously and boil until tender. Remove and drain, then mash and set aside to cool.
3. By now your ground beef should be nice and full of flavor, let’s drain the excess oil from the ground beef through a strainer. Put in a bowl, set aside.
4. Beat 2 eggs in a separate bowl and set aside.
5. While your waiting for your potatoes to cool down(you can put them in the fridge to help them cool faster), grab your pack of saltine crackers and toss them in a blender or food processor and ground them up. Once they are nice and ground up put them in a bowl and set aside.
6. By now your potatoes should have cooled and they’re easier to handle, we are going to add 1 packet of Sazon with culantro and achiote, 1 tbsp of cornstarch and 1 beaten egg. Mix very well. The consistency of the potato should be pretty firm not mushy, if it’s a little mushy add little bit of cornstarch and mix again until you gain the desired consistency.
7. Oil should be pre heating at between medium and high heat, at about 6 or 7.
8. Now your ready to assemble your potato balls, dust your hands with flour and grab a handful of potato(size of your potato ball is up to you, I do a medium size ball) roll it in your hand gently into a ball and use your thumb to press in the middle and open up a pocket to carefully add your ground beef. Spoon in your ground beef until it’s full, pack it down gently with your thumb while your holding your potato ball. Now is the tricky part, closing your potato ball the correct way, gently rotate your potato ball with your hands cupping it and gently push down the meat and rotate again while slowly closing the open pocket by pushing together the open pocket. So, cup with your hands, rotate with the open pocket facing upwards and in between each rotation push down the meat with your thumb, until you can close it completely. No meat should be exposed, if you cannot close it all the way grab a little bit of potato from the bowl and add in the open pocket and gently rotate in your hand until it has a nice round shape.
9. Carefully put potato ball in bowl with beaten eggs, then dip into ground cracker until fully covered. Now your ready to fry these babies up, please make sure the oil is hot enough if it’s still not hot enough your potato ball could potentially fall apart. With a slotted spoon drop into the oil and fry until golden on both sides about 4 to 5 minutes, rotate halfway through. Remove from oil once golden brown and drain on paper towel.
After this extensive process, when you take that first bite and get the nice crunchy crust on your potato and the soft velvety interior and the latin inspired flavors of that delicious meat, it will all have been worth it! It customarily eaten with hot sauce drizzled on while you eat it dipped in ketchup, that’s completely your preference. Any questions you have about this recipe just give me a shout, I will help you through it. Until next time.