I’m going to start off by answering a question I get all the time about this dish: what does that word mean? Nothing. It’s not like “arroz con pollo” which is basically a word for word translation. Picadillo doesn’t work like that. I have learned over time that it comes from the Spanish verb “picar” which means “to mince” and that makes a lot of sense. This dish is basically minced meat with minced up vegetables served over rice. It’s savory and warm and oh so filling. It goes well with white rice and black beans or if made with less sauce it can be served on a bun as a sandwich. When I was working as a server we had it on our menu as a “Key West Sloppy Joe” served as a sandwich with coleslaw and french fries on the side. Unfortunately, my version does not come with fries #LowCarb.
This dish starts with ground beef and I’ve never found that it matters how lean. Obviously, leaner meat is going to be better for you but I usually brown my meat in the skillet and then drain it on a paper towel so I get rid of a bunch of the fat. So whatever you have or whatever you like it going to work. I use the same large skillet I brown the meat in to make the sauce, starting with my three favorite ingredients: green pepper, yellow onion, and garlic. How big you want to chop them is up to you. I made everything in my dish very small this time around because I used this meat to make pastelitos the next day (instructions for them to come soon as well!). I let the veggies get soft and then I add the meat back in with olives, raisins, tomato paste, and spices.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: did she just say add olives and raisins into the same dish? Yes, yes I did. I, personally, do not eat olives by themselves. Not even when they’re floating in gin, but they really are necessary for this dish. I use Spanish Manzanilla olives which are pimiento stuffed. If you are like me and not a fan of the olives you can add them to the dish whole with a little bit of the juice from the jar and pick them out when it’s time to serve. This is how I ate picadillo growing up because my mom doesn’t like olives either. One of my aunts minces her olives so you can’t really tell you’re eating them and that’s how I do things now. I hate olives and I seriously cannot tell they’re there. And yes, I have made the dish without the olives and yes, I could tell the difference. You need them if it’s going to taste right. So just use them and get over it.
The raisins sound weird, but the sweetness they add is kind of delightful. I have started chopping these up smaller as well. It’s not easy because they’re so sticky, but I like that they’re more dispersed throughout the dish.
Once you have everything in your pan you can let it cook for at least an hour, allowing the flavors to mingle and mesh. If it’s too dry for you I suggest adding a little beef stock or wine, making sure to bring it to a simmer to burn off the alcohol before serving to your darling family. Like I said before you can serve this a few different ways. I usually just eat it with rice so I meal prepped this with brown rice and steamed broccoli.
My aunts would likely want me to mention that it can be garnished with peas and pimientos. Some of them also use a couple tablespoons of white vinegar. Why, I really have no idea, but they made me put it in the cookbook I created so they’d want me to tell all of you as well. All in all, it’s a pretty easy one pot meal to put together when you get home from work and let cook while you relax with a bottle of wine.
For me, eating picadillo always reminds me of my family, especially my mom, so she usually gets a call while it’s simmering. Sometimes I even give all the sisters a call while I’m cooking to make sure I’m doing it right. They hold all the wisdom.