Every Cuban woman (or man, I suppose) knows how to make Picadillo. It’s quick and delicious, but it’s never as good as “mami makes”! Some things transcend cultures, don’t they? I learned how to make this from my mother-in-law and from The Latin Lover’s great-aunt, both damn fine cooks. It’s a very valuable recipe to have. Picadillo is more or less, the sloppy Joe’s or taco filling, for Cuban’s. It’s a perfect mid-week meal…quick and delicious. I use it as a filling for Empanadas, Cuban Meat Pie, and stirred in some black beans for, Picadillo, Black Beans and Maduros, but I’ve never actually given you the recipe for simple Picadillo. That ends here.
Before we begin, I just want to mention a couple of things. Picadillo offers you both sweet and savory, all in the same bit. The sweet comes from raisins, usually white raisins. I only had dark raisins, so I used those. When I don’t have raisins, I’ve used currants; they work just fine, too. I use smaller pimento stuffed olives, which I usually slice (I didn’t this time). But many time I use salad olives, which are broken into pieces and less expensive. As to the cumin, I prefer to use whole cumin seeds, then grind them. The flavor is extraordinarily better and more complex. But, if you are short of time, or just prefer not to, ground cumin is good, too.
To begin: Sauté the meat, until partially cooked over medium-high heat. Break up the chunks, as it cooks, until it’s about half-cooked, 3-4 minutes. You may not have much fat in the pan, if the meat you use is very, very lean. If you need to, add some of the olive oil to make about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion and bell peppers and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are slightly softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, cumin, paprika, half the salt and all the pepper, and bay leaves (no picture of this step, sorry); cook until fragrant and tomato paste darkens in color, about 2 minutes. This develops the sweetness in the tomato paste, but be careful not to burn it. Add the wine and cook until reduced by 1/2, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, raisins, olives, capers, and sherry vinegar. Add 1/2 cup beef broth; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10 minutes. It should be not quite soupy, but very, very moist. Pick out and pitch the bay leaves, taste it and correct the seasoning and serve over white rice with a sprinkle of chopped, raw onions and cilantro, if desired. The cilantro isn’t all that “Cuban”, but it’s really tasty. Some people serve this as is, with black beans and rice on the side. The Latin Lover likes it served over the rice, with half the rice dedicated to picadillo and the other half, black beans. Usually there are fried plantains on the side, either ripe or green. See, simple. And simply delicious.
This is a staple for every Cuban cook. It can be made ahead and it reheats beautifully.
- 2 lbs ground lean chuck (or 1/2 ground pork, 1/2 ground beef)
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (you may not need this)
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (I prefer red bell)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
- 1-1 1/2 teaspoons cumin (or whole seeds, toasted, then ground)
- 2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 (14-ounce) can petit diced tomatoes, drained (save the liquid)
- 4-5 tablespoons Spanish olives, thinly sliced
- 3-4 tablespoons very finely chopped raisins or whole currants*
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
- 1-3 teaspoons cider or Sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup beef broth, wine or water
- Finely diced raw onion, to serve
- Cooked rice, to serve
- Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, stirring and breaking up the chunks, until it’s about half-cooked, 3-4 minutes. If you need to, add some of the olive oil to make about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion and bell peppers and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are slightly softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomato paste, garlic, cumin, paprika, half the salt and all the pepper, and bay leaves. Give it a good stir; cook until fragrant and tomato paste darkens in color, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook until reduced by about 1/2, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, raisins, olives, capers, and sherry vinegar. Add 1/2 cup beef broth; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10 minutes. It should be not quite soupy. Remove the cover, taste and correct the seasoning; discard bay leaves. Serve over white rice with a sprinkle of onions and cilantro, if desired. Usually half the rice is served with black beans.
Cuban-Style Picadillo Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2019. All rights reserved.
Just as an aside, I doubt that a Cuban would every eat picadillo this way, but I love it rolled into a tortilla or on a good bun…think Sloppy Joe.