Posted by pamela on Jan 10th, 2008
Jan 10

 Picadillo is a dish mainly consisting of ground beef (sometimes shredded beef or chicken) typically found in Cuba, Mexico, and other Latin American countries, and in the Philippines. In Mexico it is sometimes used as a filling, such as for tacos, and can be mixed with vegetables. It can also be prepared as a type of stew. In most other Latin American countries it consists of a common table from where people pick small beef pieces or other food such as french fries. The name comes from the Spanish word, “picar” which means “to chop”.Picadillo is a traditional dish in many Latin American countries; it’s made with ground meat, tomatoes, and regional ingredients. The Cuban version includes olives and on occasion capers, omits chili powder, and is usually served with black beans and rice.
Thank you Wikipedia.

Now, as I understand it, one of the fun things about picadillo is that no two people make it the same way.  There are regional variations based on the foods commonly available and well as personal and familial variations.  I suppose if you tried hard, you could conceivably make it wrong, but you would have to try very hard and it would only be an insensitive oaf who would bother to criticize.  Picadillo is a comfort food.  One of those foods your mother would make from your grandmother’s recipe.  Something heavenly that the house smelled of when you finally arrived home.

Now, as I said in the previous posting.  I am predominantly of some vaguely British ( English. Scottish, Irish, French Canadian) extraction and my culinary heritage tends toward rather bland meat and potatoes.  Well, we have all heard the jokes about British food.   The French part of the family might have contributed something of culinary interest, but it apparently was lost in the annals of history as apparently did my recipe for Picadillo.

I was initially introduced to Picadillo by a friend from Berkeley.  Thus this is yet another foray into the memory of my long lost youth, more specifically, the wild and wonderful college days at Berkeley.  However, as with many things from that time and earlier, somewhere along the way the details got lost and I was left with a vague idea of what went into the recipe: ground beef, a can of tomato sauce, a jar of green olives, a can of applesauce (one of the distinctive ingredients I was told), raisins (also distinctive), garlic, onions, vinegar.  I vaguely remember the “can of this and can of that” format that had made it reasonable easy for a college student to assemble, but no specifics.  I needed specifics!!  I need to get it right, to taste like Berkeley 1978.  Serious gastric memories were at stake.  Were there spices?  Was I leaving out some essential trans-formative ingredient?

So, I inquired of the source “Do you remember your Mom’s picadillo recipe from Berkeley?”  Alas, a dead end, nada, no interest.  So, as with most questions today, it was time to go surfing.  Typing picadillo into google yielded a host of responses the most interesting of which was a site called “cooks.com“.  A fabulous place, well worth exploring, which yielded several pages of picadillo recipes.  Well, none of them seemed to capture the memory quite perfectly.  However, there were enough of them that I could mix and match and patch together a recipe that more then adequately fed both my memories and my appetite with multiple opportunities for future experimentation.

So, here it is, Picadillo rediscovered and recorded for future use.


1 lb ground beef
1 large onion chopped
2-3 garlic cloves chopped
1 small can tomato sauce
1 6-0z can tomato paste
1 small jar Pimiento stuffed green olives
1/2 to 1 c Raisins
1 jar applesauce
1 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
dash ground cloves
dash ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp vinegar

Brown the ground beef, onions and garlic together, pour off the excess fat.  Turn heat down to low.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates.  (or you give in to the heavenly smell and decide it is time to eat)

There are many, many variations.  You can use shredded beef, pork, chicken or beans instead of the ground beef.  You can leave out the applesauce, add green peppers, add nuts, change from green to black olives, change or leave out whatever spices you like.  Experiment.  Enjoy.

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