My city is all about Italian food--and that's pretty much it. Sure, there are a couple of Chinese restaurants, but I'd hardly call them international cuisine. Taco Bell doesn't count. There are some asian places (Thai, Vietnamese) and a really great Greek restaurant, but these are at least a 20-minute drive away, and in these days of high-dollar gasoline, we're sticking close to home.
The years I spent living and travelling outside of my hometown bred in me a real love for all sorts of flavors. Although I can't visit a local restaurant to satisfy this cravings, I've learned that most things can be made at home to satisfy a palate yearning for a variety of ethnic foods. This is just one such meal.
Picadillo is an economical delicacy I learned to love while living in Key West. It is something of a sweet-spicy hash or chili--with as many variations. One of the most unusual variations I ever ate was in a Key West Mollete (pronounced moy-yet-tay). The picadillo was stuffed into a cuban bread loaf and deep-fried--talk about yummy!
But the best way to enjoy picadillo is the simplest: with beans, rice and sauteed plantains.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, vertically sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup beef broth or stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup green olives or 1/4 cup capers (we leave these out because we detest them)
In a large saucepan set over a medium flame, saute onions in olive oil until transparent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Carefully remove onions and garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Cook ground beef in the same saucepan until crumbly and browned; return onions and garlic to the pan. Stir in chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Pour in beef broth; add tomato paste and raisins. Simmer, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until liquid is reduced slightly.
Serve warm with beans and steamed white rice.
When I make beans, I like to add either potato or yucca. I happen to have a bag of yucca pieces in the freezer so I used them in my beans; if you want to enjoy authentic beans, you should try yucca or potato. While it's a bit counter-intuitive to add more starch to your beans, it's an hispanic home cook's secret for stretching the beans while deliciously thickening the cooking liquid.
Pink Beans with Yucca
1/2 pound pink beans, pre-soaked and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups water
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 cup tomato sauce
2 big chunks yucca (thawed if from frozen), or 1 medium potato, diced (optional)
In a medium saucepan, combine beans, olive oil, water, salt, garlic powder, oregano and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes, or until beans are tender. Add tomato sauce and yucca or potato, if using, and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes, or until yucca/potato is fork-tender.
Serve over hot steamed white or brown rice.