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To be honest, I had no idea what picadillo was until we were invited to a birthday celebration for a friend at the home of his wife’s family. However, knowing what I know about Mrs. A, I knew it would be good. Great, in fact. Not only is Mrs. A a wonderful person, she is also a down-right fantastic cook. I knew we were in good hands.
You see, Mr and Mrs. A are both Cuban. Though they have been in this country for over 50 years, their home is rich with Cuban culture and warmth. Their daughter, a former Broadway actress, who is now a successful jewelry designer even named her business Jewel of Havana because of her parents’ deep Cuban roots.

ImagePicadillo is sort of like chili, without the chili powder and with a few interesting ingredients thrown in for added flavor. There are also many different types that vary widely depending on the country. Most of them are in Latin countries, with the exception of the Philippines. The name comes from the Spanish word “picar,” meaning to mince or to chop. That makes sense because everything is all chopped up.

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Cuban Picadillo

  • 2 Tble olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 14oz can petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup pimento stuffed Spanish olives, chopped + 2 Tble brine
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt + pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook onion, garlic and bay leaves in oil until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until it is fully cooked and no longer pink. Pour in wine and cook another 2-3 minutes until alcohol has cooked out. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, raisins, spices and stock. Stir well to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Cover and let simmer another 30-45 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add water or more stock if it gets too thick. It should be the consistency of soupy chili. Serve over white rice with black beans and fried plantains.

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