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Cook With Compassion: Rellenitos

rellenitos I got all giddy as a schoolgirl at the thought of cooking with the ministry. After all, I do read the Pioneer Woman daily and watch Anthony Bourdain weekly. I have a not-so-secret wish to be a travel food writer. So while making this dish, I maintained a “Bourdain-esque” monologue inside my head … but with less cursing and smoking.

I made rellenitos, a dessert submitted by Claudia de Ramirez, a ministry Tours and Visits Specialist in Guatemala.


I chose this recipe because:

  1. I love dessert.
  2. I got a deep fryer for Christmas (mmm … donuts … ).
  3. I had a couple of ripe plantains sitting on the counter that my husband had bought on a whim.

And besides, isn’t it fun to say? Say it with me three times:

Rellenitos. Rellenitos. Rellenitos!

Don’t you feel better already?

It was also super cheap to make, as all I had to buy was one can of refried beans and a couple of plantains.

First up, I googled “how to peel plantains,” as I’ve had several unfortunate trysts with plantains in the past. Here’s what I learned:

You cut off the ends of the plantains first, then slice through the peel, lengthwise. Then you just pop that plantain right out.

(That is, if it’s a ripe plantain, it will pop right out. If it’s a green plantain, it will cling stubbornly to the peel and make you say less than polite words as you repeatedly and unsuccessfully try to pry the yellow flesh from the vice-like grip of the peel. Not that I would ever say anything like that.)

Next, I cut the plantains in chunks and tossed them in a pot and covered them in water. I brought this to a boil, then turned down the heat and simmered for 10 minutes. The recipe said 15 minutes, but it only took mine 10, as I was using quite ripe plantains.

While that was a-simmerin’ away, I heated the refried beans and mixed in the sugar and cinnamon. “Hmm, beans and sugar?” I thought to myself, but I decided to be magnanimous and give it a try.

When the plantains were fork-tender, I drained them and mashed them in the pot. I even got to pull out and use my handy-dandy potato masher that has just been sitting in the drawer for several years!

Now it was assembly time. I scooped the plantain goo into my hand, about the size of a golf ball — though I now know the circles would have been better a little smaller. They stuck to my hand too much to flatten in my palm as the recipe called for, so instead I flattened them on a cutting board.

Then I dolloped a bit of the suspicious bean-sugar mixture on top of each.

Next I folded them all up like a pretty little purse.

The assembly was a bit intimidating at first, but once I had it down, I got into a rhythm and imagined myself a street vendor in Guatemala, expertly shaping my rellenitos, slapping them back and forth from palm to palm.

Enter the deep fryer. You don’t have to have a deep fryer to make this recipe, but whenever I tried pan frying in the past, my oil was always too hot or too cold. With a deep fryer, I get it just right.

For this recipe, heat that oil up to 375 degrees, and plop in those puppies. It only took mine about 3 to 5 minutes to get golden brown and crispy.

Finally, I rolled the rellenitos in sugar.

The recipe says to cover the rellenitos in sugar or sour cream, but sour cream sounded a bit out of my comfort zone for a dessert, so sugar it was.

The verdict: Banana bean donuts, anyone?

My feelings were ambivalent on these little suckers. While I am morally obligated to love anything resembling a donut, I just couldn’t get over refried beans in a dessert. The beans looked deceptively like chocolate, adding insult to injury. I think I would have enjoyed these minus the beans, rolled in cinnamon and sugar.

They were served to our small group and met with mixed reviews. One friend really liked them. Our friend from Mexico really did not like them. But at the end of the night, they were all gone!