Papas Rellenos – Mexican Stuffed Potatoes
Potatoes are not usually the first vegetable you would think of in connection to Mexican cuisine, but these tubers were known and enjoyed in Mexico centuries before they first arrived in Europe in the 16th century. The potato is in fact a native of the Americas and has been cultivated from what is now Chile to as far north as the modern Southwestern United States for thousands of years now. While not as prominent in Mexican cuisine as it is in American and European cooking, it appears in some great Mexican recipes, which deserve a place at your table.
This recipe is the Mexican take on the popular “twice baked potato.” Potatoes are boiled until nearly done, then stuffed with their own fried centers along with jalapeno and poblano peppers, onion, Queso Fresco and Queso Panela (a salty, crumbly cheese that is similar to feta) and bacon.
In this vegetarian version, artificial bacon bits will take their place for a healthier vegetarian version, which sacrifices none of the flavor of this popular Mexican potato recipe. There are different recipes for papas rellenos but these stuffed potatoes with onion, cheese and chilies really hits the spot because of the amazing flavor. This makes a great side dish or lunch, accompanied by a salad.
Fans of twice-baked potatoes will recognize the main ingredients in this dish, and also appreciate the Mexican take on it. The cheese, onion, chili and bacon bits combine beautifully with the potatoes, and every mouthful will be a pleasure. You might have some leftover baked potatoes, and those are great for this recipe.
Not only will you be able to use them up but the cooking time will also be greatly decreased because only the second part of the recipe needs to be followed. The best way to serve these is piping hot, with the melted cheese oozing out of the middle. If you want to make any tweaks, like swapping the bacon bits for real bacon, or adding cooked chicken or ground beef to the filling, go ahead, and you can make one of these into a complete meal.
- 4 medium sized potatoes
- 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 large or 3 medium poblano peppers, stemmed and diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (can be omitted if you would like a mild dish)
- ½ cup each grated queso fresco and queso panela (farmer’s cheese and feta may be substituted)
- 2 tbsp artificial bacon bits (optional)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Begin by boiling the potatoes until they are tender but still firm in the center, about 15-20 minutes. Set potatoes aside in a bowl of cold water to cool while you chop your peppers and onions, grate, and crumble the cheese. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle safely, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Slice off ⅛ to ¼ inch off of one side of each potato, just enough to make a flat surface to work with. Using a grapefruit spoon, carefully scoop out each potato, leaving about ¼ inch of flesh attached to the skin to make a shell, which is easy to stuff. The insides of the potato should still be relatively firm. Chop the potato centers into small cubes.
- Heat olive oil to medium-high in a skillet, add the cubed potato centers, and fry for 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally. Add the onion and peppers and reduce the heat slightly, stirring occasionally for another 3-4 minutes or until the potatoes are browned. Remove from heat, add the bacon bits and cover, allowing to sit for a minute (this will soften the bacon bits and allow their flavor to blend with the onions and peppers).
- Transfer the potato mixture to a bowl and mix with the grated queso fresco. Stuff each potato shell with the mixture and place into a baking pan. Top the papas rellenos with crumbled queso panela and bake for 30 minutes or until browned and the cheese is bubbling. Allow the potatoes to cool for a minute or two before serving.
Twice-baked potatoes are usually served in the American style, but these feature a Mexican twist for a brand new flavor experience. Potatoes are stuffed with Mexican cheese, chilies and bacon bits, and the resulting dish is a real feast for the senses. The photo shows what this looks like if you use regular bacon instead of bacon bits, and you can also see how adding some fresh chopped rosemary and chives adds a nice splash of color. Serve these piping hot for lunch or as a side dish with chicken or beef, if you are looking for a particularly filling meal.
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