Visiting Cuba is on our “bucket list.” The sooner we can get there the better as it seems that time may catch up with them after all. Have you seen travel shows and colorful images? All the 1950s era cars fill the streets, intoxicating Buena Vista Social Club music wafts out of clubs and the food… oh, the food. Give me a plate dressed with black beans and sweet plantains any day.
Ropa Vieja is a slow-cooked meat dish that I often make in my crockpot. But, for something faster, perhaps on a weeknight, Cuban Picadillo is an easy choice. It is one of the tastiest quick and easy ground meat recipes. The briny olives juxtaposed with the sweet raisins make a more complex meal than any American hamburger dish.
This recipe yields a batch big enough to feed 4 to 6 people when served over rice. You can also use the meat as a filling for tacos or inside empanadas. Black beans and fried plantains make perfect sides. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in Cuba for just a moment or two.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 green pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 lb. ground beef (or 1/2 lb. beef and 1/2 lb. pork)
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup dry, white wine [editor's note: use cooking wine or substitute the same amount with beef stock]
1/2 cup beef stock
1 medium tomato, diced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and bay leaf and sauté until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. Add ground meat and cook, stirring, until browned.
3. Add spices and stir to combine.
4. Add the wine [if using], stock, tomato, tomato paste, olives and raisins.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
6. Serve over rice, in tacos or as a filling for empanadas.
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