See Vegetarian Picadillo recipe here.
I came back from a mind-numbing day of work with a headache so I took a nap. Waking up refreshed an hour and a half later, I started cooking. Today’s menu: Picadillo con arroz blanco, platanos y aguacate–in English, Cuban beef hash, white rice, plantains, and avocado. Picadillo, for me, is one of those comfort foods, filling, warm, aromatic, and DEElicious. Like flan, everyone has their own version due to their personal preferences, etc, so today I tried a hybrid of my mom’s recipe and Mary Urrutia Randelman’s in Memories of a Cuban Kitchen. Picadillo can be eaten with white rice, used as a filling for empanadas or papa rellena (Stuffed Potato), or used in casseroles with plantains or mash potatoes (which I intend to try to cook sometime). When I cooked it all the measuring spoons and cups were dirty (hooray laziness) so I just eyed the amounts (I felt so professional ;P) but I’ll put Urrutia Randelman’s measures to help out. Picadillo was one of those foods I was picky about as a kid but I think my kid self would have liked the one I made today (no offense to mom’s recipe).
The ingredients, like most Cuban foods, are fairly simple and easily available: ground beef, 1 chopped onion , 1 chopped bell pepper (the recipe called for green but I used orange since it was what I had at home), 2-3 garlic cloves (or minced garlic), 1/4 cup of dry sherry, 1/2 canned tomato (I used Rotel brand tomatos and chili pepper), salt, cumin, pepper, mexican chili powder or cayenne pepper, a chopped potato, 1/4 cup of raisins, 1/2 cup chopped pimento stuffed green olives, 1/4 olive oil. With picadillo you can customize the ingredients to your liking. You don’t have to use all these. In fact, though classic recipes use raisins and olives, I had never had them in picadillo until today. (But it was delicious!) You can always have a taste when it’s almost done cooking and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Now! The directions! WOOOoo
First gather all your ingredients and chop the onion and bell pepper. Also, the recipe calls for garlic cloves but minced garlic is so much easier. One whole onion and bell pepper seemed like too much so I used about half, but again, it’s your preference. I might put more next time around because I like foods with lots of stuff in it. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan and when hot, add the onion, pepper, and garlic and stir while cooking. Put a potato in the microwave to bake while you cook the rest of the picadillo (you can also boil it or fry it but this takes less dishes, work, and time).
Add the beef to pan and cook until brown, breaking up chunks with a wooden spoon. Add salt, cumin, pepper, mexican chili powder (start small if you’re unsure, you can always add more), dry sherry, and tomatoes. I like adding the chili powder to give it a kick. That’s one of my mom’s customizations. Urrutia Randelman likes adding tobasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce, which is a little odd to me but I may give it a try someday. Retrieve your potato and chop into small pieces and add to meat. Also add the raisins and olives. The raisins add a very subtle sweetness that compliments the hearty, slightly spicy flavor of the picadillo. Continue to cook. When the meat is thoroughly cooked, you can taste-test a little spoonful and adjust the seasonings accordingly. (Careful. It’s hot.) Next you’ll want to cover and continue to cook on low until some more of the liquid is absorbed. Then it’s done!
The white rice is simple. Two cups of rice, 3 of water, some olive oil and salt. Cook uncovered until little craters form on rice, stir, and then cook covered over low heat to absorb the rest of the liquid. If you’ve got your own way to make rice, go for it. It doesn’t really make much of a difference.
The plantains we chopped into large sections with the skin still on, put the pieces in a microwave safe casserole dish (I guess that’s what it’s called) with some water, covered it, and put it in the microwave until it was soft. The great thing about plantains are their versatility. Unripe and green they are starchy like potatoes and good for making tostones and ripe and black they’re sweet and great for baking or frying.
We also had some avocado with a little salt on the side, another cuban staple.
The picadillo turned out fantastically for my first time. My mom said it was delicious and we both had heaping helpings. It really is comfort food and the fact that it came out so great made my day. Maybe there’s something to this cooking project after all.
*You can see the condensed directions for recipes on the Recipes So Far tab of home page.