Picadillo is an every day, comfort food sort of dish in most Latin cultures. It’s relatively quick to prepare, can be eaten over rice, rolled into a flour tortilla or served in a corn tortilla, taco-style. It has a rich, meaty essence with sweet-salty flavorings. It can be made with either ground pork, ground beef, or as I’m doing it here, both. The Latin Lover is Cuban-born and he loves picadillo, but the Cuban version is different from the Mexican version, which is different from the Columbian version, etc. So, I want to take a moment to talk about authenticity, as it applies to food. What is an authentic dish? Is you grandmother’s picadillo (or kugel, cabbage rolls, lasagna, goulash, fried chicken…fill in the blank with something from your heritage) the same as she would have prepared in her country of birth or by her peers? Probably not. But, for you, it’s authentic. I think the real question is, does it taste good? Does it make your mouth water, just thinking about it? Perhaps, we get too hung up on authenticity and lose sight of the fact that a half-dozen people can prepare the same dish and no two will taste exactly the same. Over time, we all change recipes as we discover new spices or ingredients. For example, my mother always added a grated apple when she cooked sauerkraut. Is that authentic? It is to me, because that’s how I grew up eating sauerkraut and I love it that way. What about adding caraway seeds? She didn’t, because my father wasn’t fond of them. I add caraway (along with an apple) because I love caraway and I throw in some garlic, too, which she didn’t. Even with those changes, I still consider the way I cook sauerkraut to be “Mother’s Sauerkraut”. So please just enjoy and savor what you’re eating, and more importantly, with whom you are sharing it. Thank you, I’m done now with this little musing and I’ll move on to the recipe at hand.
I like this recipe made with pork, but I have ground beef that needs to be used, so we’ll be using both ground pork and beef. I have tried picadillo using ground turkey and frankly, I wasn’t bowled over. But, if you want, try it and see what you think; you may love it.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 1 pound ground pork (or 1/2 ground pork, 1/2 ground beef)
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup broth
- 3 tablespoons chopped raisins
- 1-2 tablespoons cider or wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, cinnamon, cloves and cumin, if using; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in meat; cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes, broth, raisins, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Bring to simmer and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up meat so that no chunks remain. Continue to gently simmer, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 20-30 minutes. If you are serving this over rice, you may want to leave it a bit soupier.
Stir in almonds and cocoa powder; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve as desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat later. Can be frozen; add the almonds after thawing.
Now tell that doesn’t look tasty alongside some red beans? Or you can eat this with a spoon over the sink (I’m sure you know there are no calories in anything eaten that way, right? I have swamp land for sale, too!). If you cook this mixture down, over low heat and stir frequently, you can put it in a corn tortilla for a great taco! A squeeze of fresh lime really makes the flavors pop.