Hello again. I have successfully pulled my head out of my ass (with the help of a tow truck) and returned to writing. This week has been a bit, well, trying. Even though it has been a bit trying and I have been REALLY anti-social, I did manage to have a pretty deep conversation with a life long member of the JP fan club. A person that I have both loved and hated passionately, who is still one of my closest friends. We chatted about some really deep estranged family issues that we have in common; well, we basically grew up together. This Cubanita is still one person I can speak with and know that she gets where I am coming from.
After talking with her I had a “Scrubs” style flashback. The glorious kind that even now while I write this, I smile. I recalled sitting at my Cuban family’s big kitchen table after a large meal, sipping cafe cubano and playing dominoes. Discussing political situations on the island with a retired Cuban police officer and a delusional union organizer. These discussions were passionate and in Spanglish. It was a concept that only today, do I begin to understand. Being 14 years old and far away from any sign of my Irish roots, I was estranged and comfortable at the same time.
Like any strong passionate culture may it be Irish, Cuban, or German, food is the central theme. In this “flashback” one of my all time favorite dishes made an appearance. A very simple working class meal, Picadillo. Loosely translated, Cuban beef hash. And it is damn good!
I remember coming over and Abuela always asking, “did you eat? Are you hungry? I will fix you something.” This something, Picadillo con frijoles negros y maduros. I would sit and savor this dish that was hand made for me, as if I was the star of the show, king of the castle, nay, master of my domian; Abuelo, well always saved me a seat near him, so that we could watch the miss Venezula competitions and he knew that he would get served as well. As for Abuelita, well this woman could cook. So well, that even today Picadillo prepared by anyone other than Abuelita, is an inferior product.But every once and a while I come across a place that comes close. This was the case Monday.
I was jonesin’ like a crack head on 10 spot binge and I had a coupon! Yes, I was rash and brazen to go out and buy. I committed a sin against all Cuban grandmothers everywhere; for this I apologize. While seeking forgiveness, I would like to share Abuelita’s recipe for Picadillo, so that you can build the same memories I have. Enjoy!
Abuela’s Easy Picadillo Recipe (Feed 4 Americans OR 2 Cubans)
1 lb. ground beef (Not too lean)
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp of Garlic Powder
3/4 of a small can of tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup Pimento Olives (As much or as little as you like)
SALT (to taste, remember the olives and tomato sauce are salty to watch your hand)
Raisins (this ingredient is optional, it is a family thing not everyone likes it)
Ok so take the oil and warm in a skillet. Add the beef and season with the salt and garlic powder. Raise the heat to med or med high. As you cook the beef be sure to break it up as much as you can. When the meat is 1/2 way browned add the green peppers and onions. Incorporate these ingredients. Once meat looks fully cooked add the tomato sauce, olives and raisins(if using). Lower heat to med or med low and cover. Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until you think the onions and peppers are nice and soft.
Serve over white rice. Indian firm/Basmati rice is the best. Most Cubans like to use Mahatma white rice. Remember to put olive oil in your rice if you want it to taste authentic.