There is a special place in my heart for Cuban Fritas, pronounced free-tah. It is a small, thin burger, fried to perfection with a hint of spice, but not spicy, topped with onions, ketchup and fried potatoes. The first time I had one, I recall our parents taking my brother and me to the iconic Morro Castle in Little Havana (link goes to their Yelp page). In the 70s, it was a drive-in style restaurant with car-hop service, and also had a few open air tables under canopy. Although the carhop service is gone, the restaurant is still at its original location and hasn’t changed much in 40+ years. (They also make incredibly drool-worthy churros and hot chocolate) As far as I’m concerned, they are the masters of the frita thanks to their fried potatoes. Of course, the burger is delicious as well but there was something about those little crispy fried potatoes that really made the flavor stand out. Fritas
are typically served with ketchup, onions and potatoes. The only other Claudia-approved condiment is hot sauce for those who like a little fire on their food. Other than that, I strongly recommend against putting anything else on it, like cheese, pickles and/or mustard. Once you start adding too many toppings and condiments, a battle for flavor is waged in your mouth and you really want to taste the burger above all.
My other frita-related memory is tied to my brother’s Boy Scout troop. They were based out of St. Michael’s Catholic church in Miami, where most of them/us went for elementary school. Every Thanksgiving weekend, the school/church carnival was held. For a number of years, the troop raised money during the festival by selling fritas from their meeting space for $1 a pop. Our parents and our godparents, who were the troop leaders, worked diligently for hours mixing meat, dicing onions, making potatoes, then spent even more hours cooking them up over the course of the four days of the festival. I worked the window collecting money and handing out burgers. There was rarely any down time and after 4 days, we all smelled like burgers and onions. Those were the best damn burgers ever and on a chilled Miami autumn night, they hit the spot!
I know there’s some history behind who can lay claim to creating the first fritas, whether it was the original owner of Morro Castle or the original owner of El Rey de las Fritas. If I’m not mistaken, the two started out as friends and business partners but parted ways after disagreeing what makes the true frita: all beef vs beef/pork mix. Some people prefer one over the other for various reasons. My personal preference is for the beef/pork mix and it’s the only way I know how to make them. I also make mine slider sized but you can make them regular burger bun sized if you wish, the recipe will merely yield less. Large or small, you should flatten your burger patty and make it as thin as possible. As for the fried potatoes, you will want to use fresh, peeled potatoes and the coarse side of a box grater, then deep fried til crispy and golden brown. You could use canned potato sticks, but why? The meat needs a couple of hours to chill in the fridge and absorb all the flavor. About 15 minutes prior to frying up your burgers, take the time to peel, shred and fry 3-4 potatoes and if…IF...you happen to have any left over(doubtful) you can keep them in a baggie in for a few days and use them on hot dogs or on top of a palomilla.
- 3/4 lb ground beef
- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 1/2 c bread crumbs
- 1/4 c milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp finely minced onion
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- Soak bread crumbs with milk in a bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
- Add moistened bread crumbs to meat mixture and incorporate with your hands thoroughly.
- Refrigerate 1-2 hours.
- When ready to cook, take enough meat to make a 1-1 1/2" meatball. Flatten into a very thin, round patty and add to pan.
- Fry several minutes over medium-high heat until the patty is browned half way, then flip and fry an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Serve on slider buns, top with fried shredded potatoes, onions and ketchup. Disfruten!
- Depending on the fat content of your meat, the burger will shrink in the pan. Do not be alarmed; this is normal. Tip: if you make all-beef fritas and use very lean meat(90% or higher) place a very small pat of butter in the center of your meat ball prior flattening/frying.