Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I'm only half Cuban. I married into a Cuban family. My American mom, however, taught me how to make the best Picadillo. Maybe it's because she's the best cook I know! I don't make it exactly like she does, but the recipe is basically the same. If you don't know what Picadillo is, let me start by telling you that has nothing to do with Pikachu. (Pika pika pikadillo?) It's a general term in Spanish for ground beef. I've seen it with potatoes, with capers, annatto oil, but I have yet to make it with these ingredients. I would like to try different styles in the future, but can I just warn you that this one is really good? This recipe is a true success, if I may be so blunt. Maybe if you've never had Cuban food before, it will be a bit foreign, but I've met many a Miamian who are reluctant to move away because they will miss the food!
Here is how I made Picadillo yesterday:

1 lb ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, diced
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup green olives
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper (if desired)
1 tbsp cooking wine

1- Chop your onion, tomato, pepper, and peel the garlic while you defrost your meat (if it needs defrosting). Start some rice just before browning the meat, or make it ahead of time.
2- Brown beef with onion and garlic (crush into the pan or mince first), drain excess fat if needed.
3- Add tomato, pepper, salt, pepper, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, and cooking wine. Mix it all in, then simmer for 10-15 mins.
4- Toast the almonds for 2-3 mins over medium heat. I added a little butter. You really have to watch this or they'll burn! They still taste good burnt, though. I don't have a picture of this step because I saved some from the last time I made Picadillo.
5- Add the olives & almonds before serving. It is traditionally eaten over or along side white rice. It also goes well with traditional Cuban sides like yucca, black beans, Cuban bread, or plantains. You can also serve with a side salad, but that's not the Cuban way.

Here are my ingredients, sans the ground beef- I left that in a bowl of warm water (wrapped tightly in plastic) to defrost while I began to chop my ingredients. R2-D2 there is my pepper mill and the Beatles drum is a salt shaker. I only used half the green pepper. I can't wait to start cooking with homegrown veggies!

Not pretty to look at, I know, but I'm throwing this rubbish in the compost bin! There are nutrients here that plants crave (and electrolytes are not what plants crave).

Browning the beef with onion and crushed garlic. This smells heavenly in itself.

Look at all that good stuff! I added the tomato, pepper, salt, pepper, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, and cooking wine and let it simmer for a good long while- I had to wait for my husband, Jorge, to get home.

At this point your kitchen will be filled with a savory aroma. I mixed the olives and almonds just before serving.

This is definitely a favorite, and so easy. Jorge said he could eat two more bowls of it (but I stopped him so we can have leftovers).

I have to say that there is such a medley of flavors contributing to why this is just so good- the plump raisins that soak up the juices (especially the next day- they look like tiny grapes), the sweet cinnamon & cloves, the delicious crunch of almonds, the tart olives- this is one of my favorites, and it is so hard to do this wrong. It is very satisfying, too. You will want to make this again.


  1. High praise indeed! I am honored...
    I have gotten many compliments over the years for this dish, and it is very satisfying. The ingredients are a little unusual (cinnamon?) but it works!

    You make cooking look so attractive, Cristina! Very colorful pics.

  2. If yours is as good as YOUR MOM'S, then it's a winner