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.

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