picadillo cubano

The last few weeks have brought with them a tiny obsession with putting golden raisins in savory dishes. Picadillo is apparently a general term in Latin American cuisine, used for dishes including ground meat, and tomatoes, in combination with other ingredients. In many places, this includes raisins or other dried fruits. In Cuba, it includes olives and potatoes, generally, and in Mexico, picadillo can bend even more toward the sweet. A few weeks ago, I made this marvelous stuffed pepper with a picadillo-style filling over at Homesick Texan, and it tended even sweeter with apples and other dried fruit, plus cinnamon and allspice. It was life-changing.

Here in New Haven, I have had the Cuban picadillo many times at Soul de Cuba, a great local Cuban joint. (Inexplicably, they own a second restaurant in Hawaii.) Their version does not have potatoes in it, so I worked with that idea. And I have to say, while I love the amazing variety of olives that are available to us now in most stores, I am enchanted with the fact that Cuban picadillo includes chopped pimiento-stuffed olives. Eating a few out of the jar while cooking this dish made me remember how delicious this déclassé cousin of the lucques, kalamata, and picholine actually is.

I have never had Hamburger Helper, but dishes like this one make me wonder why it exists at all. It is just as easy to prepare, the ingredients are easy to keep on hand and can be used flexibly in the pantry for lots of other things, and the leftovers are perhaps more delicious than the original edition. Add black beans and rice, and you have a tasty and inexpensive meal that you can stretch a long way.

True confession: I love this heated up with the beans and rice in the morning in a nonstick skillet. I push the warmed-up leftovers to the side, add a douse of olive oil, and fry an egg in it. Marvelous.

Picadillo Cubano

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Turkish bay leaves
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds ground beef
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup raisins, regular or golden
  • 1/2 cup drained pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ancho, or a pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Use a large pan at least a few inches deep.  Add olive oil and warm until shimmering over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and bay leaves; cook just a few minutes until onion is soft.

2. Add beef; cook until browned, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, 5 – 10 minutes.

3. Add remaining ingredients at once. Turn heat to low and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

4. Taste and correct seasonings for salt. Make sure no one eats the bay leaves. Serve over brown or white rice.

1 Comment

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One Response to picadillo cubano

  1. Hope

    Success! I threw in the whole small can of diced tomatoes, so about a cup and a half. And extra ancho plus a healthy dose of Spanish paprika. Really tasty. From writing down the recipe to completion, it took under half an hour. You’re just like Rachel Ray!

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