“All I have to say is, you really need to make
this more often, because I love it.”
The Saxophone Player
Picadillo is a Cuban dish of deliciousness! I would imagine that every real Cuban cook has their own variation of the dish, but I’m not a real Cuban cook—just a wannabe. Each time I’ve made my versions in the past, they were fine, but they rarely evoked memories of my Mother’s. So, when I recently decided to try this dish again, I looked for a recipe.
Now, my first go-to for Cuban recipes is my sister, Jill. She is a real Cuban cook, and her version of this dish is wonderful (click), but I didn’t have all of her ingredients on hand. So, I went to my next go-to for Cuban recipes, Three Guys from Miami (click). I trust them, because I’ve made many of their recipes and they most often taste just like Mother’s. That’s always my goal when I make Cuban food.
WHAT IS IT?
The primary ingredients for Picadillo are pretty typical for Cuban food—garlic, onion, bell pepper, and tomato. Ground beef is the star. Yes, I suggest grass-fed. If you can find it on sale, it’s worth it—especially in this dish.
To that foundation, you add more very Cuban flavors: olive oil, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
TIP: if a recipe calls for a pre-made spice blend, don’t do it. They have their place, but not in Picadillo. This may be a “hash,” but it’s a carefully seasoned dish. Also, use fresh garlic. It’s worth the effort.
The next group of ingredients in Picadillo are not commonly included in American, savory dishes, yet they play a very important role in this recipe. Personally, the Spanish olives and raisins weren’t a surprise to me, but the cinnamon and cloves were unexpected. I don’t know that my Mother used them in her version, but I’m very glad I included them. Their impact was subtle, but notable.
TIP: I don’t recall if the recipe says to chop the raisins, but I suggest it—unless you really like hot, juicy raisins. That is not something I enjoy. I also just think their flavor blends into the meat better, when they are chopped.
TIP: allowing the dish to stew on a really low heat for a bit helps those flavors to really blend.
I like Picadillo with white rice. You can add a green salad, tostones, or black beans. The Saxophone Player like his with a fried egg. That’s a very traditional way to eat the dish.
If you make Picadillo, please let me know how you liked it. It’s a pretty simple to make, and it’s something you could make ahead and reheat on a busy night, or double and freeze half for a really busy night.