Cuban Papas Rellenas

“Mom! Look, I’m not sweating anymore!” shouted Mr. Man-pants, from the top of the stairs.

Needless to say, after battling nearly triple digit temperatures for about a month now, you can bet I was all ears. But his comment wasn't the only thing that got my attention.

As the boy walked closer, with an awkward gait and arms extended, it was the shellacked coating on his skin I found most intriguing.
Turns out, the shiny glaze was the result of rubbing a solid stick antiperspirant over his entire body. A bit peculiar, but resourceful, don't you think?

In any case, as soon as the boy went off to shower and deglaze, I felt a sense of relief, knowing that his sole intent was to keep cool, not to compete in a junior bodybuilding contest.

Mr. Man-pants' initiative was the exclamation point to my day, and I just had to tell you guys about it.

Speaking of exclamation points, have you ever had Papas Rellenas (Stuffed Potatoes)?

This is one of Cuba's most popular comfort foods. A spicy Picadillo is cradled in a cloud of creamy mashed potatoes, rolled in cracker meal, and fried until golden crisp.
Mom typically served these with Black Beans and Rice. But I often break with tradition and serve them with a salad, or with a cooling avocado sauce, similar to Mexico's Guacamole, minus the heat.

To make these, you may want to crank up the air conditioner, lose yourself to the happy sounds of the Orquesta Aragón while sipping a Cuban Mojito. Then, prepare to accept the plaudits from the grateful members of your family.

Papas Rellenas

2 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup Picadillo (recipe follows)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup cracker meal, or fine bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying.

In a large pot, cook potatoes in salted water to cover until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well. Place them back in the pot over medium heat, and shake pot until remaining moisture evaporates.

Put potatoes through potato ricer. Season with salt and pepper, and allow mixture to cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes.
Take a handful of puréed potatoes and shape it into about a 3-inch ball.*
Make a well and fill with 2 tablespoons picadillo. Reshape into a ball; repeat with remaining potato mixture. Roll the balls in the beaten egg and then in the cracker meal. Place on a platter lined with wax paper, cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, or deep fryer, over medium-high heat, heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 375° F. Fry a few balls at a time until golden brown on all sides. Do not fry too many at once, or the oil temperature will drop, causing the stuffed potatoes to get soggy and greasy, rather than crisp. Drain the balls on a paper towel-lined platter. Serve hot. Makes 10 papas rellenas.

Note: For the sake of accuracy, I use an ice cream scoop with 1/3 cup capacity.

You will end up with leftover Picadillo. You could serve it over white rice, make Cuban Empanadas, or freeze it for another time.

¼ cup olive oil
1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
4 to 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound ground beef, chuck or rump
¼ cup dry sherry
½ cup canned crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small potato, peeled and finely diced
¼ cup raisins*
½ cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1 tablespoon drained capers, optional

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onion, bell pepper, diced potato and garlic. Cook, stirring for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring until brown, breaking up any large chunks. Drain off excess fat.
Add the dry sherry, tomato sauce, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add olives, raisins and capers to the meat, and simmer the picadillo until most of the liquid has evaporated. You want the mixture to look moist, but not soupy. Adjust seasonings, to taste.

*Raisins play an important role in the classic Picadillo, but mom has already forgiven me for not liking them, particularly in savory dishes, so I omit them. Feel free to do the same.

Serve Papas Rellenas with the classic Cuban cocktail, the Mojito.


Several sprigs of yerbabuena or American mint*
1½ teaspoons sugar, or to taste
Juice of 1 small lime
½ cup crushed ice
1½ ounces Bacardi light rum
1 cup club soda

In a highball glass, gently crush the mint leaves with a wooden spoon to release their oils. Combine the mint and remaining ingredients, except for the club soda. Stir in enough club soda to fill the glass. Makes 1 drink.

*If you can get a hold of Chocolate Mint, use it here.

I hope you'll forgive me for being gone so long. I have no excuses. My son's vacation is drawing to a close, and I've been spending a lot of time with him. I've also been painting and refinishing a few pieces of furniture, trying to work up the courage to make a slipcover for my sofa, cooking very little, and eating out a lot, just to keep cool.

And here's my latest distraction, meet gray tabby, Mason.
I know, right? How can that sweet little face be any trouble?

Mason is 4 months old. He carefully selected us from the herd of onlookers at our local humane society.
His hobbies include: sleeping; kamikaze-ing himself onto my head when I least expect it; sleeping; pestering our feline matriarch, Puddin' between naps; greeting humans by ramming his head against theirs, and sleeping.
But, his favorite pastime is letting his inner-kitty loose at around midnight—when the humans are sleeping!

Give him a high-four, will you!

Happy weekend.

Designs by Gollum
Romantic Home


  1. Anonymous6/8/11

    Not heard of..but gonna make it.Yeah drank Mojiti before:)

  2. LOL! The story about your son is hilarious.

    Great food! The kind of recipe I like. The pappas rellenas look so tempting and the mojito so refreshing!

    Cheers and have a lovely weekend,

    Rosa xxx

  3. The glazed beautiful boy made me smile..

    I was walking with Lucas ..I had seen him 3 days before and I said Lucas..You've grown a foot.. he moved his left foot as we walked and said this one:)

    Every age has an exclamation smile point..many.
    How I love them and I am certain you do too..

    Your photos are so ethereal..
    Love the antiques in many of your shots.. Minou is cute:)

    My friend's feral cat just took off.. she was so good to her..

    I am sorry for her..
    Our summer has been warm and waterless..dry..parched..but pretty in the sky..you have to look up:)

    These look so good Sol..a surprise package for the table.
    Bonnne fin de semaine belle fille.

  4. That glazed kid probably won't sweat for a week, LOL!

    Potatoes look fantastic! So does the mojito. Have a mojito and enjoy your new kitty, very cute! Actually make me a mojito because my kid keeps bringing home rescue pups. This last one turned out to be half Great Dane.

  5. Clever and resourceful boy :)

    I immediately had to Google Orquesta Aragón and just listened to a few of their happy tunes on YouTube. Love the flute. If you can, find the Orquesta Aragon/Alfredo De La Fe Jam. Now I am totally in the mood to make Papas Rellenas and sip on a Mojito! And, perhaps pretend I'm being Kamikazied by a kitten - LOL.

    Congrats on the new ball of fluff, Sol, and enjoy Mr. Man Pants as much as you can before school starts!

  6. Has Mr. Man Pants tried glazing his feet? Heard it works wonders if there is that issue. LOL

    Mojitos you say? The best one I ever had was in Ogunquit, Maine. But I bet they would be better at home with Papas Rellenas. My sister can relate to being Kamikazied by a kitten. She just got a cat, never having one before. It has stole her heart.

    Congrats on the new addition of fluff to the family.

  7. LOL :) How come I've never thought of doing that to beat the heat? Smart kid! :)

    I love pappas rellenas! And yours look delicious, and picture perfect... Yummy!

    And congrats on the new addition to the family! Just adorable :)

  8. Dzoli, agreed. A mojito can turn any day into a party!

    Rosa, this boy's crazy antics are going into a journal...for posterity :)

    OMG Monique, that Lucas is adorable! Sam had a similar conversation with her dad once, and I wish I could remember the details. Anyway, gotta love a child's innocence.

    Carol, you're too darn funny! However, you'd need something stronger than a Mojito, after that experience.
    I'm envisioning that poor Great Dane being dragged into the house by the tail with: "Mom! He followed me home!

    Susan, thanks for the tip my friend! I grew up listening to the sounds of Aragon, as my parents listened to it often. Naturally, at that time, I was more interested in Rock—not much has changed though. I love it all.

    Debbie, thankfully the boy never glazed his feet, or I would've spent all night cleaning the trail left behind. I seem to acquire a few gray hairs with each of his stunts, problem-solver that he is :)

    Harried Cook, thank you! The kitty's been a great addition to the family, regardless of the new battle scars on my face and neck :)

    Thank you all very kindly!

  9. On my goodness! Those papas sound like my kind of dish. How yummy! Thanks for your kind comment about my healthier eating :)

  10. What a perfectly planned meal, including the mojito to round off everything :)

  11. ROFL! Marysol, I loved your story! Your son is so resourceful although I loved your comment about bodybuilding because that's the first image that came to mind! :P

  12. That reminds me of when we lived in St. Louis and had no air conditioning. We would take a cold shower, powder ourselves all over with talcum powder and walk with our arms outstretched to bed, so that no part of our body would touch another part and get all sweaty!

  13. Look at those Papas Rellenas... they look so good!!! Never had anything like them and want to try your recipe.

    High-four to Mason!

  14. My oh my ... all looks good enough to eat/drink :) A beautiful post, dear Marysol, and awesome shared recipes. Do hope your busy summer is grand! (((hugs))

  15. Katie, if you try this, I'd be curious to see the healthier spin you'll put on this appetizer.

    Thank you, Tigerfish!

    Lorraine, sometimes I wish I had a camera handy for some of the circusy stuff around here :)

    Pam, seems we've been channeling your ritual lately!

    LDH, thank you! I hope you'll try this sometime.

    Joey! Summer has been busy, sweaty, messy, and a whole lot of fun. I hope it's been the same for you, minus the sweaty mess :) Many hugs pal!

  16. Yum these look delish. I love potatoes, but have never had these. Your presentation is lovely too! I'll take a few of those with some avocado for dipping please!

  17. I so miss the Cuban restaurants in Miami! I lived in Ft. Lauderdale for years and went every..single...chance...I got to Miami and ate Cuban food until I thought I would explode! I had better metabolism back then...

    Sigh....these are definitely going to be made in my house this weekend....

  18. So funny - your son is resourceful. I'd love to sit down right now with one of those mojitos and some of those stuffed potatoes.

  19. Goodmorning! Your photos are so beautiful, nice job..thanks for the Mojito! mmalso clearing up what one is..Miss Kitty is so sweet, Marysol, Scooby, our dog was a shelter rescue too. Bravo!

  20. The summer heat still hasn't broken in my neck of the woods. My next purchase will have to be some Bacardi and a few sticks of deodorant. Brilliant.

  21. Anonymous21/8/11

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  22. These are a great idea with the picadillo filling. We make some tortias de papa in Mexico very similar without the filling. I love the idea of filling them with a protein.



  23. Wonderful post and story; wish I could have more time with my son now that he is gone, but whatever time I do have is wonderful. Love the kitty too and these potato balls of goodness.

  24. Well, it's Sunday morning, and those things have my stomach growling - unfortunately, at this moment, I'll have to satisfy myself with Cheerios. Oh, the misfortune of it all! I will, of course, be trying this dish (sans the aforementioned raisins... thank you for permitting the exclusion) and promise to report back (though, as my long absence on my own blog can attest to, I can't be held to that promise, though I will do my best).

    The little beast you have now added to your family is the cutest-little-thing-I-ever-did-see. With that face, who cares about sleeping at midnight??

    XOXO to you!!

  25. Love the recipes and the pictues! You broguht back memories when I used to work on the ships and we used to visit Puerto Rico and Mexico weekly :)

  26. Lori, the little beast has grown into a mountain lion overnight.

    Unfortunately, I'm not fluent in kitty, or I would explain to him the effects on his giant paws on my head :)

    Thank you all for hanging out with me; I'll be back within the next few days, to check out your blogs, which I have sorely missed.

    Happy weekend to all!

  27. I've eaten picadillo before -- but usually stuffed inside empanadas. Man, I've been missing out if they come stuffed inside crisp, golden potato fritters. MMMM!

  28. Looking at your site is like being in a museum, except a lot more comfortable and also titillating to the taste buds and my sweet tooth (or teeth!). well, these Cuban goodies remind me of the batata chap I just did for my little Iraqi cookbook, except better (love that spicy filling!). You are such an incredible artist! I am so impressed with your taste and imagination!

  29. Anonymous15/3/13

    I just made these right now and they are to die for. My (picky) 9 yr old loved them but she also helped me make them Im pretty sure thats why she liked them. I did the picadillo different I seasoned it with some salt, black pepper, tomillo and I added 3 leaves of Laurel(thyme) moms recipe and I added the tomato paste and that it. Delicious.....Thanks for the recipe. Its a keeper :)

  30. Glad you enjoyed this classic Cuban treat! Made even more special with your DD's involvement in the kitchen, as well as her approval! Thank you for the wonderful feedback!