Cuban Fritas (Seasoned Cheeseburgers With Shoestring Potatoes and Spicy Sauce)

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

Cuban Fritas (Seasoned Cheeseburgers With Shoestring Potatoes and Spicy Sauce)

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The frita is a classic regional American burger created by Cuban immigrants in South Florida. While the standard is a thin, griddled patty with a spiced ketchup-based sauce, my take on it is a slightly larger version designed for the backyard grill with a boldly seasoned pork and beef patty, a creamier sauce, and more vegetables. The crisp shoestring potatoes that are the hallmark of a traditional frita remain the same.

  • Yield:Serves 4
  • Rated:

Ingredients

  • 1 potato, peeled and cut into 1/8th inch matchsticks with a mandoline or by hand
  • 1 quart peanut or canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin, divided
  • 1 tablespoon paprika, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons), divided
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • Sliced American, cheddar, Swiss, or pepper jack cheese, as desired
  • Sliced onions, shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and pickles, as desired
  • 4 toasted hamburger buns

Directions

  1. 1.

    Rinse cut potatoes in a bowl of cold water, changing water as necessary until water runs clear. Drain carefully and dry on paper towels.

  2. 2.

    In a deep cast iron skillet, fryer, or wok, heat oil to 350°F. Carefully lower potatoes into oil. Cook potatoes without moving, adjusting heat to maintain temperature, until bubbles from potatoes slow down and potatoes are a pale golden blond, about 3 minutes. Continue cooking, agitating potatoes occasionally with a metal spider or tongs until potatoes are deep golden brown, about 3 minutes longer. Carefully transfer potatoes to a paper towel-lined bowl and season immediately with salt. Allow to cool completely. After cooling, potatoes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

  3. 3.

    In a small bowl, combine ketchup, mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 clove of garlic, vinegar, and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

  4. 4.

    Combine beef, pork, remaining cumin, remaining garlic, and remaining paprika in a large bowl and mix by hand just until combined. Form into 4 large burger patties.

  5. 5.

    When ready to serve, season burger patties generously with salt and pepper and cook burgers to desired doneness on a hot grill or in a skillet on the stovetop (135°F for medium) topping with cheese for the last minute of cooking as desired. Transfer to a plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

  6. 6.

    Place onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles (if using) on bottom buns and top with burger patties. Spoon sauce on top of patties, cover with fried shoestring potatoes, and close burgers, pressing down gently until they just hold together. Serve immediately.