Picadillo is the name of a variety of dishes first originating in Spain. Versions of Picadillo can be found across Latin America and the Caribbean, and it has reached as far as the Philippines. Each variation has its own distinct quality; in the Dominican Republic, Picadillo is served with hard-boiled eggs, while in Puerto Rico it is used as a filler in Empanadas, or in savory pastries known as Piononos. The word Picadillo itself comes from the Spanish word Picar, to chop or mince.
My favorite Picadillo is the Cuban version, aptly named Picadillo Cubano. As with any beloved dish, there are many regional variations, but it generally combines the unique flavors of cumin, oregano, green olives, capers, and raisins. The end result is not unlike America’s favorite crockpot dish, Chili con Carne, but with a sweet-and-savory dynamic that’s equally comforting and exotic – and it all comes together in 30 minutes.
Not to confuse you, but the Cuban version of Picadillo is found in other countries, as well. For example, it is called Arroz a la Cubana in the Philippines, where it is topped with a fried egg. Not a terrible addition, if you ask me.
For today’s recipe I tested ButcherBox‘s ground beef; this is my second time trying their 100% grassfed beef (read about my first experience here), and I was just as impressed as the first time around. If you’re looking for a fun new take on pasture-raised meats – as part of a curated package shipped monthly – you can’t go wrong with these folks.
Picadillo Cubano (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30-friendly)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs ground beef
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper, more to taste
3 bay leaves
1 can (14oz) tomato sauce
1/2 cup green olives, pitted
1/4 cup capers + 1 tbsp caper juice
1/4 cup raisins
chopped cilantro to garnish
white rice (optional)
sliced chile peppers
1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and saute until slightly softened, about 3 minutes; add the cumin seeds and saute until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the bell pepper and garlic, and saute until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the ground beef, oregano, salt, and pepper; saute until the beef is mostly cooked through, breaking up chunks as you go, about 6 minutes. Add the bay leaves, tomato sauce, olives, capers, caper juice, and raisins, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until about half of the liquid has evaporated, about 6 minutes. The consistency should be saucy but not soupy, as shown in the picture below.
3. Remove from heat, fish out the bay leaves, and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with fried plantains, white rice, lime wedges, and sliced chile peppers (like jalapeño or fresno).
** Quick fried plantain lesson: slice along the plantain peel, then remove the peel with your fingers. Warm about 3 tbsp of coconut or avocado oil in a frying pan over medium heat; slice the plantain at a bias, about 1/2″ thick, then pan-fry until crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Cool on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt just as you take them out of the oil. Green plantains will be starchy and crisp, like a tropical potato; yellow and black plantains will be soft and sweet, and brown easily – both versions are excellent.