If there is one thing any respectable Southern Californian will tell you to do while in SoCal, it is to visit Porto’s Bakery. With three locations to choose from—Glendale, Burbank, and Downey—Porto’s is a family owned Cuban bakery that has been around since 1960.
It not only specializes in a vast array of baked goods, decorated cakes, coffees and smoothies, but it also serves unique café items like sandwiches, soups and salads, all with a Cuban flare. Out of the many items they offer at Porto’s, one novelty stands out in particular. There is one item that any and all avid Porto’s fans will tell you is their favorite thing to eat. A must-try when you pay a visit to this jam-packed, always busy—line out the door—bakery.
What is this treat that has everyone mystified and buying them by the dozen? Boxes and boxes filled to the brim with this Cuban delight? Ready to be eaten? Ready to be devoured? It’s Cuban potato balls.
“Wait what? What’s that you just mentioned?” Yes. Cuban Potato Balls. Or Papas Rellenas if you feel like being authentic. Seasoned beef stuffed inside a ball of mashed potatoes. Breaded and fried until golden brown and crispy all around. It is so popular that the bakery even offers a sandwich filled with these treats.
These can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the beef and adding more veggies. Or you can swap out the beef for chicken, pork or shrimp. They’re the perfect appetizer for any party or gathering, or just as a snack during the week. Yield: About 25, golf-ball sized potato balls.
- 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 tablespoon warm milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 pound ground sirloin
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 small green bell peppers, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 small red bell peppers, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon worchestire sauce
- 1 lime, juiced
- vegetable oil for frying
- Boil the peeled and diced potatoes until they are fork tender. Drain. Mash potatoes with the salt and about 1 tablespoon of warm milk—do not add any butter or oil!—and let cool.
- In the meantime, make the filling. Heat a large heavy duty pot over medium high heat. Drizzle in the tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the ground sirloin. Using a wooden spoon, break up the beef and allow to cook and brown. Once browned, add the finely chopped onion and garlic. Stir and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the finely chopped green and red bell peppers. Stir and continue to cook. Season the beef mixture with the worchestire sauce, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper, cumin and lime juice. Stir thoroughly and continue to cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Allow to cool completely.
- Using a medium ice cream scoop, measure out a ball onto the palm of your hand. Flatten out the ball into a flat circle with an indentation in the center.
- Stuff the indentation with the spiced beef mixture.
- Bring the sides together and smooth out to make a round ball, about the size of an overstuffed golf ball. Continue this process with the rest of the potato and beef mixtures, until all the balls are formed.
- In a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and tablespoon of water.
- In another shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs and the flour.
- Dip the ball into the beaten egg, and then roll in the flour mixture until lightly covered. Dip the ball in the egg, again, and roll in the bread crumbs to coat thoroughly. Continue this process until each potato ball is coated, placing them on parchment lined baking sheets.
- It is very important to refrigerate the potato balls for 2 to 4 hours before proceeding to the next step. Or at this step, you can also freeze the balls and fry them later, when ready to eat.
- Use a frying pan or medium pot to fry the potato balls. Fill with enough oil to cover the potato balls. Heat oil to the frying stage (about 375º F) and drop about four potato balls (be careful not to overcrowd the pot) into the hot oil. Let them cook for about 2-5 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the potato balls frequently to ensure even browning.
- Transfer the fried potato balls to a plate lined with paper towels, to drain off the excess oil. Move the balls onto a rack positioned over a baking sheet. Serve right away, or allow to cool and store in the refrigerator. These can be fried ahead of time and reheated in the oven when ready to serve. Enjoy!