In some cultures, appetizers abound. There are appetizers for every occasion possible, as well as certain appetizers to go with certain types of meals. A lot of families are mixed, and so there’s variety when it comes to appetizers. Not in my predominantly Puerto Rican family. Sure, we have things that can be called appetizers, and we often eat them as such. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that we tend to use our main dishes as appetizers, and our appetizers as main dishes. It goes the same way with desserts and breakfast, now that I think about it.

It all depends on how we feel that day, I suppose. Or how big of a meal it is. If family is coming over, then something that might have served as dinner one day is simply an appetizer the next. For example, the other day my grandmother taught me how to make empanadillas. After we made them, we ate them with some arroz con gandules and that was dinner. Quite often however, empanadillas will simply be an appetizer before we get to the real food. Sometimes for breakfast, we’ll make these things that are sort of like homemade donuts, fried and covered in sugar. Other days they become dessert. I wonder, does everyone do this?

There’s only one type of food that seems to be used purely as an appetizer, and that would be rellenos de papa. They’re round little balls made of potato, and filled with meat. Roughly about the size of a golf ball, they’re fried to a beautiful golden brown and eaten hot. They’re small enough that we pretty much only use them as an appetizer. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try them at home.

Enjoy and try not to burn yourself!

Rellenos de papa recipe:

  • 1½ cups water
  • 7 tbsp margarine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups instant potato flakes
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsps. corn starch (for dusting rellenos)
  • oil for frying

Prepared cooked picadillo (ground beef and/or pork seasoned with sofrito) – ½ lb ground meat, salt and pepper, sofrito, add 2 tsps tomato sauce and cook until done. There’s many different recipes for the meat, so use whichever you’d prefer.

Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Add margarine, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and milk. Stir until the margarine is melted, then add potato flakes. The mixture should be thick, dry, and maybe a little sticky, since you want it to hold its shape. Cool slightly then add a beaten egg and mix. Let the potatoes cool down. Oil your hands and make them one ball at a time, rolling it, and make an indentation for the stuffing. Place a small amount of picadillo in the middle, folding the sides over the meat until it’s covered. Roll the stuffed balls in corn starch – this helps keep the mixture together during frying. Fry over medium-high heat until golden.