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Passport & Plate - Papa's Rellenas

Peru | Tuesday, 4 February 2014 | 4 photos

2 Cups Mashed potatoes
½ Cup Cream
1 Egg (gently mixed)
2½ Cups Flour (more needed during assembly to prevent dough sticking to hands)
1 tsp Salt
Mix above ingredients until dough is a workable consistency and feels similar to your ear lobe (soft yet firm), it will still be a tad sticky, but not sloppy sticky.

1 Cup of cheese- Queso Seco crumbled (Cotija is a Mexican variety that is great)
(firm white cheese found at specialty shops or you can use other firm, salty, white cheese)
1 Cup cooked rice
1 Onion diced
2 Cloves garlic diced
10 Black olives diced
1 Red pepper diced
1 tsp dried chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 Hot pepper (optional)
1 lb ground beef, pork or chicken
1 Tbsp olive oil or other oil of choice for saute
Oil for frying, canola or peanut or other preference
How to prepare this recipe.
Saute diced onion until translucent. Add in red pepper and spices and saute briefly. Add ground meat and cook through. Remove from heat and add in cooked white rice and olives. When filling has cooled, add in crumbled cheese.

To Assemble:
Place a small amount of potato dough in the palm of your hand approx 1/4 cup (dust hand with flour to prevent sticking), gently with other hand, also dusted in flour pat dough into a tortilla shape that is about the size of your hand. Add 1-2 Tbsp of stuffing into the center of the dough shape. Now here is the tricky part, leaving the one hand to hold the dough and filling, use your other hand to gently pull the dough over the top and pinch the edges, making a sealed oblong shape. Pat the top with a flour dusted hand to flatten the filled papa rellena. Carefully place finished papa rellena in heated skillet with 1/2” hot oil. Oil should be hot, but not smoking. Try and control the heat of the oil to maintain a nice hot pan, but not letting it get too hot to burn the papas as you add them. Cook the papas and flip them when the edges turn brown. Serve immediately. Top the papas rellenas with avocado, or salsa or crema (similar to sour cream). You can keep them warm in a preheated oven if you

The story behind this recipe
When I was 24 I sold all of my possessions and bought a plane ticket into Mexico City, with a return flight from Caracas, Venezuela a year later. This backpacking journey would take me through 14 countries. Along that trip I ate from countless street vendors sampling tacos de lengua, strange and exotic fruits, and postres. One of my favorite lunches was Papas Rellenas in Cuzco Peru. I can still see the woman, on a corner, with her small wood-fueled fire, the big skillet atop, patting out these remarkable little morsels. One of my side journeys was to Machu Pichu, and being on a limited budget I took the second class train and sat in a crowded car with all the locals. I was offered a seat by two older women who sat across from me and I sat next to one of their daughters. They were Quechua, and so spoke only broken Spanish to match my own. They were dressed in ornately adorned traditional clothes, brightly colored with elaborate embroidery carrying satchels full of sugar cane. The train was old, peeling paint, and ached while it lumbered through the mountains. In my best Spanish I started talking with the women, I told them how much I loved the food in Peru which seemed to please them. When I told them how much I loved Papas Rellenas the daughter offered to tell me how to make them. She carefully listed the ingredients and described how to mix them. She explained that the consistency should feel like your ear lobe, and with her cupped hands showed me the amount of each ingredient. Her mom and friend would nod approvingly when she would describe a part of the recipe and I would nod back as if to say “Yes I’ve got this”. The train was far too bumpy to write the recipe down as we rode, so I memorized each piece, telling myself that as soon as the train stopped I would write everything down. When the recipe was complete I thanked them many times, relishing not only the recipe but the rich interaction. They handed me a stalk of sugar cane, so sweet.

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