Picadillo by Request

by Cate on May 18, 2008

123-blow-small.jpgMy stepdaughter turns 14 (14!!) on Tuesday, and since I’ve known her since she was 2 that makes me feel old all the sudden.  With her birthday falling in the middle of the week, we celebrated it with her this weekend.  I told her she could decide tonight’s dinner, as the birthday girl, and was bracing myself, having no idea what she’d pick.  Visions of something complicated or expensive or lengthy filled my head as I waited to hear her choice.  Picadillo.  I was surprised, though The Husband wasn’t (and, to his credit, predicted as much).  Her mom makes her Picadillo, as does The Husband, so I was expecting her to choose something that she doesn’t get a chance to eat that often.  I even gave her the night to sleep on it … secretly hoping she’d change her mind for something more adventurous.  But no, Picadillo it picadillo-page-small.jpgwas.  In the grand scheme of things, I lucked out because Picadillo (a Cuban beef hash of sorts) is certainly simple enough to make.

Now being a Cuban dish, usually The Husband would take over and make it, but I beat him into the kitchen and started working on it while they were out.  The Husband’s go-to Cuban cookbook is Memories of a Cuban Kitchen.  He’s turned to the page for Picadillo so many times that the book opens right to it, complete with tomato splatters top to bottom.  That being said, he doesn’t follow the recipe exactly, and uses it more as a guideline.  He skips the raisins, and the fried potatoes, and the sherry, and sometimes the green pepper.  It’s safe to say he skips enough that when he makes it, it is his own recipe.  This was my big opportunity to make the recipe as written, and see how the authors meant for it to taste.

the-girls-small.jpgWith Madeline happily ensconced in the kitchen swing, I set to work, the smell of onions and garlic quickly filling the air.  Forty-five minutes later, dinner was done.   I think I prefer the cookbook version slightly more than The Husband’s wing-it version, but the end result is certainly in the same ballpark.  No matter, the birthday girl was happy, and that is what tonight was about.  Happy Birthday!

Picadillo (Cuban Beef Hash) from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen
From the author: The spicy aroma and sweet accents of this delicious dish magically evoke childhood adventures at my grandmother’s cattle ranch. This is a perfect dish for feeding a large group because it can be made days ahead and its flavor will improve and mellow as it waits. (My brother Tony and I add a little Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce to the classic recipe, for an even tastier dish).

1/4 cup pure Spanish olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb ground beef, chuck or rump
1/4 cup dry sherry (I used a red Spanish wine I had on hand instead)
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes or prepared tomato sauce
1 T salt
1 T Worcestershire sauce, optional
1/2 t Tabasco sauce, optional
1 small all-purpose potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives (may be cut in halves), drained
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil

For the garnish:
1 large egg, hard-boiled and finely chopped
1/2 cup drained canned early sweet peas
1 pimiento, chopped

In a pan, heat the oil over low heat until fragrant, then add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring, 10 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until brown, 10-15 minutes, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon. Drain off any excess fat.

Add the sherry, tomatoes, salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco, stir and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, then fry the chopped potato until golden, 10 minutes. (If you prefer not to fry the potato, boil it over medium-high heat, unpeeled and halved, in salted water to cover until tender, 20 minutes, and omit the vegetable oil). Add the potato, raisins, and olives to the meat, correct the seasonings and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the picadillo to a large bowl or platter, place the chopped egg in the center, outline the border with peas, and sprinkle the entire dish with the pimiento.

4-6 servings

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Núria May 19, 2008 at 4:50 am

Hey! I just discovered your blog, and I’m so glad I did! I love it!!!! I’m Spanish from Barcelona and hope to visit your place more frequently.

I’ve seen you are hosting the Weekend Herb blogging, so I’ll send you my recipe in short!



Maria May 19, 2008 at 11:49 am

Every once is a while I make picadillo. I would skip the raisins because cooked soft raisins aren’t my thing. My grandmother used ot make it for me. The recipe I use is:

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
1-1/2 tsp. Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning with Pepper
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup Sofrito
1/2 cup Tomato Sauce
1 tbsp. White Cooking Wine
1 tbsp. Cider Vinegar
2 packets Sazón with Coriander and Annatto
1/8 tsp. Ground Cumin
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup diced Pimientos
1/4 cup sliced Pitted Spanish Olives

1. Season meat with Adobo and set aside.
2. In skillet, heat oil on medium. Stir in the onion and cook until tender and slightly colored.
3. Stir in meat, breaking it up as it browns. When browned, pour off excess fat.
4. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, lower heat and cook for 15 minutes or until desired consistency. Stir often.

I usually don’t eat it with rice. I either put it in discos to make spanish turnovers or put it into puff pastry.


claire May 19, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Happy birthday to the step-daughter! Looks like she’s a good helper with that baby! I also love the used look of this cookbook…it means that the recipe IS tried and true.


Noble Pig May 20, 2008 at 9:57 am

Happy Birthday and it sounds like a great dish. It’s all about the comfort food.


Ivy May 21, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Hi, I dropped in from WHB as I wanted to add your URL to my post. Happy Birthday for the baby. Your dish sounds great.


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