***This recipe has been update with a better picadillo recipe. ***
When I got the idea to start this blog, it was kind of a spur of the moment, I just feel like doing this, sort of idea. It was not well thought out, planned, or premeditated by any means. I’ve never cooked Cuban food and I’ve only ever made one Cantonese dish. I knew I needed some guidance and I wanted the recipes to be as authentic as possible. A quick Amazon search and I found my first two cookbooks. The books I’m using as my inspiration for these recipes right now are Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman and Joan Schwartz and Chinese Village Cookbook by Rhoda Yee for the Cantonese dishes.
I had my fiancé go through the books and pick his first few favorites that he wanted me to make first. Papas rellenas was on that list. And much to my pleasure, it seemed to be pretty easy. While I will agree that it’s not hard, per say, but it was a little more complicated and time consuming than I had originally thought.
The first half of this meal is easy to make. It’s the balls I trouble with (that’s what she said). First you need to get a pot of water boiling, one big enough for your potatoes and water to cover them. Once boiling, throw a dash of salt into the water and return to a boil. Grab about two pounds of potatoes, wash them, peel them, and cube those yummy spuds up. After that, throw them in the water and cover.
Okay, don’t actually throw them. Putting potatoes in boiling water is one of the scariest things in the world to me. If I do not lower the potatoes into the water as gently as a mother would lay her sleeping infant into a crib, I will get splashed and burned. It happens every time I get even slightly reckless. I think I have a little potato PTSD, because I flinch every time I boil potatoes.
Enough of my personal trauma. While the potatoes are boiling, about 15 minutes, you need to prepare the picadillo. Now this is a recipe and can be a main dish all on it’s own, but it is also used a stuffing in other Cuban dishes. Right now, I’m only doing a part of the recipe to use as the filling for the potato balls, and I am planning on making a post just for the picadillo as a full meal later on.
First, dice up a medium/large size green bell pepper, a medium sized yellow or white onion, and two to three garlic cloves, or one giant one like I have!
In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, throw all three into the pan and cook them for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let them burn, add water if you need to and stir often.
Once your veggie mixture is cooked add the vegan beef, sherry, crushed tomatoes, salt, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce to them and stir. Make sure to keep it uncovered over medium heat for about 5 minutes, and then on medium-low for about 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Your potatoes should be cooked by now. While your picadillo is cooking, drain the potatoes and let them cool a few minutes. Put them into a food processor and pulse until smooth, but be careful to not over do it. Season them with salt and pepper to taste and add a little bit of water if needed. Your potatoes need to rest about 30 minutes to get it to room temperature. Do the same for your picadillo once it has cooked.
Here comes the hard part. Making the balls. I have never made potato balls before, so maybe I just need more experience, but I did not particularly enjoy the experience. The original recipe calls for one egg, beaten, and cracker meal (pounded or crushed crackers). I didn’t have any crackers, but I did have panko crumbs, so those were going to have to do. As for the egg, I used Ener-G egg replacer. Prepare based on the instructions on the box, but I had to add a little more water to make the consistency nice.
Funny story time. Or more like, I’m a dumbass, story time. When I first became vegan, I found a recipe promising to make cauliflower taste like chicken nuggets (they didn’t but they were still really good). It wanted me to cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces, coat it in Ener-G, roll it in bread crumbs and seasonings, and bake. Simple enough. However, I had never heard of Ener-G, but I had heard of Emergen-c, which I guess that’s what my brain translated Ener-G to mean. To be fair, it still worked! But it probably would have been better with the proper ingredients. Don’t be like me, don’t use this:
It is not gonna work.
Back to the balls. First you need to take a handful of the potatoes and form a cute little ball. I put on gloves after seeing how much the potatoes stick to your hand while making the first. Take a tablespoon and press a little well into the middle; this is where your filling goes. Put about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of the picadillo into the well, and then cover with some more potatoes, careful not to to squish the stuffing out (like it did). Repeat until you have 6- 8 balls. I ended up with seven. Next, coat the ball with your pretend egg, then with the bread or cracker crumbs. Cover them and let them sit in the fridge for 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spray lightly with olive oil on all sides.
In the original recipe, it wants you to fry these bad boys, which would be oh so delightful, but we are trying to be healthy here people! So we are going to bake them instead. If you go rogue and fry them, don’t tell me, I’ll be jealous (but dangit I’m curious, just tell me!). Bake in the oven for ten minutes, then broil on high for the last five. We want a golden crust, but we don’t want to overcook them and risk having them explode…. I wouldn’t know anything about that…. Ehem. (I also spaced and forgot to let them set in the fridge for an hour, so that may be the reason they did not hold together as well.)
I like to top these bad boys with pimientos and cilantro. Dig in, but careful, they are very hot! Save the extra picadillo for Tambor de Picadillo, or ‘Beef’ hash and mashed potatoes. (Recipe to come!)
For the Picadillo:
- 1 medium sized yellow or white onion
- 1 large green bell pepper
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 package of Tofurkey ground beef (highly recommend but can substitute)
- 1/4 cup of cooking sherry
- 1/3 cup of canned crushed tomatoes
- Salt to taste
- 1 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
For the Potatoes:
- 2 pounds of russet potatoes, peeled, and cubed
- Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
- 1 Ener-G egg made from Ener-G egg replacer
- 1 to 1 & 1/2 c panko bread crumbs or cracker meal (vegan crackers crushed in food processor)
- Olive oil spray
- Peel and cube your potatoes, boil in a pot of salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender.
- While the potatoes cook, make the picadillo. Chop the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, ad to a hot nonstick pan on medium heat. Saute with water for about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent.
- Once your veggie mixture is cooked add the vegan beef, sherry, crushed tomatoes, salt, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce to them and stir. Make sure to keep it uncovered over medium heat for about 5 minutes, and then on medium-low for about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, drain the potatoes, let cool a couple of minutes, and then put in a food processor. Pulse the potatoes until they are smooth, but do not over process. Season the mashed potatoes with salt and pepper to taste and let them rest for 30 minutes until room temperature.
- Once the sauce in the picadillo has been absorbed and reduced, set it to the side and let it come to room temperature as well.
- Make your Ener-G egg replacement according to the box. I had to add a little extra water to mine to get the consistency right. In another bowl, ready your bread crumbs.
- When ready, take a handful of the potatoes and form a little ball. You may want to wear gloves to keep the potatoes from sticking to your hands. Take a tablespoon and press a little well into the middle of the ball; this is where your filling goes. Put about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of the picadillo into the well, and then cover with some more potatoes, careful not to to squish the stuffing out. Repeat until you have 6- 8 balls. I ended up with seven.
- Save the extra picadillo for Tambor de Picadillo, or ‘Beef’ hash and mashed potatoes.
- Next, coat the ball with your Ener-G egg, then with the bread or cracker crumbs. Cover them and let them sit in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and spray lightly with olive oil on all sides. Bake in the oven for ten minutes, then broil on high for the last five. We want a golden crust, but we don’t want to overcook them and risk having them explode.
- Serve with pimientos and cilantro and eat them while they are hot!