How to Make Papas Relleno?

File this under mystery foods that you know you love but are not quite sure how to prepare.

Many years ago I set off on a long sojourn through South America. I’ve been thinking about those care-free backpacking days a lot recently and one of the tastes I remember most were these baseball-sized Colombian snacks known as Papas Relleno (stuffed potato).

These meat and potato spheres were the perfect cure for a Colombian rum hangover in Cartagena all those years ago and hence make a damn good meal today for any carbo-loading energy-craving pre-schooler.

The problem is that while I have learned how to make them by imagination and trial and error I really have no idea if I’m preparing them properly.

That’s where I hope you guys can help. What follows is my recipe for Papas Relleno. Please let me know what I need to do to make it mas autentica.

What You’ll Need

1/2 lb of ground beef
1/2 Spanish onion (chopped)
One can of chopped and peeled tomatoes
three cloves of garlic, minced
A smidge of pimenton (what else? ..but I know this isn’t authentic)
salt and pepper to taste
10 medium-sized potatoes
butter (for mashing)

How You Make Them

Sautee the chopped onion in olive oil and the minced garlic for two minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the ground beef, the tomatoes and pimenton plus salt and pepper then simmer and reduce the liquid for 30 minutes. At the end the meat should sauce should be fairly dry.

At same time, boil the potatoes until ready to mash. Add enough butter to create a smooth but firm mash. Let the mash cool.

Now the fun bit.

Take a clump of mashed potato and shape into a mini-bowl. Fill with a small amount of the meat “sauce” then connect with another hollowed out potato bowl and shape into a ball. Repeat until you’ve used all the potatoes and meat sauce – you can probably get about 10 – 12 papas rellenos from these measurements.

Heat a deep frying pan with vegetable oil. Add the potato balls to the oil and fry, turning occasionally to make sure the whole ball is fried, for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove the papas with a slotted spoon and drain the excess oil using paper towel.

Serve with a light tomato salsa or aji if you know how to make it (I’ll explain in another post).

Okay, so that’s my uneducated but passionate take on Papas Rellenos. Amigos Colombianos…how should they be made?

- Matthew

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5 Responses to How to Make Papas Relleno?

  1. Brandon says:

    My suggestion comes from memory, a restaurant memory actually, as well–so its authenticity is a bit dicey. I’m sure there were finely chopped and sauteed red peppers in there with the garlic (maybe it’s all just a a basic sofrito?). And when you say pimenton, do you mean smoked paprika or the fresh variety of red pepper (I’m guessing the former)?

  2. matthew says:

    yeah – I think it’s just a basic sofrito which is what I’m trying to replicate but without the achiote.
    Pimenton is indeed the spanish smoked paprika.

  3. emma says:

    This sounds delicious! Unfortunately I can offer no help on the authenticity of the spices, but I can offer my services with the grammatical portion of the recipe: it’s Papas Rellenas [stuffed potatoes; in Spanish, potatoes are feminine]. One of these little gems would be a papa rellena. Now then, off to try the recipe!

  4. bob says:

    no the meat sauce is called picadillo ..u have to use that

  5. Carmine says:

    I was married to a woman from Medellin for 14 years. My ex mother in law used to make them all the time. The ingredients are fairly close from what I remember. She used to also chop up hard boiled eggs to mix in. The major difference in how she prepared them was this… She would boil the potato whole. When they were soft enought she would take a small spoon and starting at the end of the potato begin hollowing it out. she would leave an outer shell approx. 1/4 inch thick. she would then set aside the potato and added the insides that she had hoolwed out to the meat mixture in the frying pan and cooked it all together. This mixture is then stuffed back into the potato. The potato is coated with batter and deep fried.

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