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With a long weekend ahead and no barbecues in site, I’ve been thinking about fritas.  A Cuban-style hamburger with more spice than size, it’s pan-fried and topped with crispy shoestring fries.  Miami even  has it’s own Rey de las Fritas challenging Ronald, Wendy and the Hamburgler for drive-thru supremacy.  It was my favorite after the beach snack growing up, and I made my first batch last night.  The only missing ingredients to make it a perfect burger madeleine were 1970s strength sun tan oil and sand.

Fritas/Cuban-Style Hamburgers
This recipe is adapted from Nitza Villapol’s Cocina al Minuto.

1 lb. ground beef*
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs
1 small yellow onion, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teapoon of ketchup
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-3 tablespoons of olive  oil

12 hamburger buns or small rolls

*This recipe can also be made with 3/4 pound ground beef and 1/4 pound ground pork.

Put ground beef in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the milk and bread crumbs and soak till milk is absorbed.  Add the egg and remaining ingredients to the milk mixture.  Add mixture to the beef and stir until just combined.  Form into small patties and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet and pan fry patties to desired degree of doneness, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Serve on warmed rolls with catsup, mustard and shoestring fries.

Papas Fritas a la Juliana/Shoestring Fries

2-3 large baking potatoes, peeled
Peanut or other vegetable oil

Using a mandoline or other vegetable slicer, cut potatoes into strips about 1/8″ thick.  Soak potatoes in cold, salted water to cover for about 30 minutes.  Drain and dry well.

Heat oil to about 365 degrees in a deep fryer or deep heavy pot.*  Fry potatoes in small batches till golden, between 3-5 minutes.  Remove from oil and drain on  paper towels or brown paper.  Season with sea salt to taste.

*I had difficulty reading my deep fat thermometer.  Most recipes recommend heating the oil between 350-375 degrees.  I tested the oil with a few potatoes to make sure that they browning within a couple of minutes so that they’re crisp not limp.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Teri #

    My research tells me that fritas where sold at cartstands on Havana corners. Having met Havana as a 2 year old and never returning I have no recollection of this. However, frita lovers say that zorza which is the thick oil/lard in which canned chorizos are submerged in for preservation is combined with beef to form the frita. I have made frita by grinding in the food processor beef with whole Palacios brand chorizo instead of this “zorza” (about 2 inches worth of chorizo to one standard size burger patty). I don’t see canned chorizo sold in any Cuban enclave. In fact I only found one brand which is the brand of choice relatives in the States send to their family members back in Cuba. It is pretty awful.
    Anyway I was surprised to read Villapol’s ingedients since paprika is used and not chorizo or zorza? I know Villapol is revered among Cubans and she “popularized” across the island the Cuban cookbook but many Cuban cookbooks and authors precede her beginning in the 1800s with the 1st Cuban cookbook ever written. I have to wonder how true, if at all, her version of the frita recipe is. I have her classic manual and although most of her recipes seem accurate and there is a nice variety of them she is still someone who was raised outside of Cuba (NYC to be exact) and whose ethnic lineage is Russian and not Spanish. These facts may be telling or perhaps not of her FULL grasp on the culinary culture/scene. I don’t know and don’t want to be unfair to her because she really is accurate on most other recipes I have seen.

    29 August 2012

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