Monday, June 12, 2017

Picadillo

One of the comfort foods that a roommate used to cook was picadillo, a "mince" of ground beef with an assortment of added flavors. Her version of picadillo was influenced by her Mexican heritage and was made up of beef, tomato paste, cumin, onions, garlic, and potatoes. She ate it on tortillas.

It was only in graduate school when I was attempting to recreate her dish that my Cuban roommate told me that picadillo was Cuban, and the ingredient list was supposed to be far more complex. When I asked how to make the Cuban picadillo, he revealed that he couldn't actually cook so he didn't know. I turned to the internet, where I found a large variety of different recipes all purporting to be the authentic Cuban picadillo. I have decided that picadillo is similar to ragu, that there may be a hundred varieties of the "authentic" recipe.

My favorite recipe is the one from the New York Times. It has a perfect medley of savory and sweet. I have only tweaked it slightly, to add potatoes when I don't want to eat it with rice, and to more thoroughly brown the meat to get that delicious crispness.

Picadillo Recipe (inspired by the New York Times' Sam Sifton)

3 ounces dried chorizo, diced
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4 medium-size potatoes, cubed (I prefer yukon gold)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ pounds ground beef
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped finely
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
⅔ cup raisins
½ cup pitted stuffed olives
3 tablespoons capers

Add the chorizo to a large pan at medium-high heat until the fat begins to separate. There should be at least 2 tablespoons of fat, or you may add extra virgin olive oil if there is less than 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan. Add the onions, potatoes and garlic, and stir fry for around 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and becoming translucent.



In a separate pan, add the ground beef, and allow it to brown, crumbling the meat with a fork as it does. Season to taste with the salt and black pepper. 


Add tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, white wine, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaves, cloves and nutmeg and stir just enough to combine. Lower the heat, and let the picadillo simmer, covered, for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Remove the cover and add the raisins, olives, and capers. Cook for another 15 minutes. You may serve this with white rice (traditional), tortillas, or over a root vegetable mash.

Friday, June 9, 2017

finally, relief

Feedly, the news aggregation app that I use, has unveiled a new filter where you can exclude certain words for a period of time. For example, if you have hit your saturation point with reading about the bleating of a certain bloated, bloviating, nuclear Cheeto, you can select his name and apply a mute filter. Oh, if only this filter worked outside of Feedly!

In other news, my attention was completely focused on the Comey testimony yesterday and I missed that the UK election was going on. I am not educated on the ins and outs of UK politics so I don't know exactly what the exit polls results mean to the future leadership. I did enjoy listening to two colleagues discussing the possibilities. It was a welcome change from discussions over US politics, which have been painful of late.

I'm still hoping that I was hit by a bus and all this has been a bad dream resulting from my six month coma.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Mississippi is still burning

After watching a news report about a noose that was left at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, my friend had to explain to her 8 year old son the historic meaning behind a noose. She wrote that his eyes filled with tears and he struggled to understand why black people were treated differently.

It led to a discussion with other friends about color blindness in children. I think that it is beautiful that children seem to be color blind, but it is also naive to be color blind when there is so much inequality still around us based on the color of someone's skin. I just wish that children could be innocent longer before we are forced to tell them about the world but the fact is that this racism is not usually in your face like a noose, or all of the recent "alt-right" attacks on foreigners and minorities. Racism can enter our lives early through seemingly innocuous acts that become normalized. Take my other friend who visited her daughter's daycare and was devastated to discover that her vivacious, talkative child was quiet and always lined up at the back of the queue to go out, and took her blanket to the outer edge of the group during nap time. I'm pretty sure that the teachers didn't overtly tell her that black kids were to be treated differently but somehow the four year old had figured out her place through social cues from the adults around her.

I remember watching a teenage classmate pat my sister on the head like a dog and tell her how cute she was. They were both high school seniors and this girl talked to my sister like she was something other. The worst part was that Samantha H probably thought that she was paying my sister a compliment. Samantha did not pat me on the head even though I was younger than them; I look far more white than Asian. Even now, I'm not sure what I would have done if I could go back in time to that moment. I hope that Samantha met other non-white people and learned. I hope that it is never too late to learn new lessons.