In my posting queue from long ago, a note about a bon appétit magazine piece on picadillo; the function of the note was mostly to remind me of the version of picadillo that Ann Daingerfield (Zwicky) and I used to make in Columbus OH: a kind of do-it-yourself Mexican meal. The picadillo mixture keeping warm in a big bowl; a platter of browned tortillas to make into tacos and fill with the picadillo; and a large assortment of small bowls with things to add to the tacos.

The result was something along these lines:


From Wikipedia:

Picadillo (… “mince”) is a traditional dish in Spain and many Latin American countries and the Philippines (where it is known as giniling, and also Arroz a la Cubana) that is similar to hash. It is made with ground beef, tomatoes (tomato sauce may be used as a substitute), and other ingredients that vary by region. It is often served with rice or used as a filling in dishes such as tacos, savoury pastries or croquettes. The name comes from the Spanish word picar, which means “to mince” or “to chop”.

The picadillo mixture. The first part of Beaumont Rd. Picadillo: ground beef sauteed in a skillet with

chopped onion, minced garlic, finely chopped green pepper, salsa, cumin (crucial ingredient), oregano, chili powder, black pepper, and salt; sometimes also tomato sauce and tomato paste

and cooked until it’s a fairly dry stuffing for the tacos.

The tacos. These we made sort-of from scratch. We didn’t grind hominy into flour, but instead used grocery store masa harina. From the fine Cooking site:

A flour made from specially treated ground corn, masa harina is the foundation for tortillas, tamales, sopes, and many other corn-based Mexican treats. To make masa harina, corn kernels are dried, then rehydrated and treated with lime (calcium oxide), which makes it possible to remove the skins. [The result is hominy.] Once the skins are rubbed off, the kernels are thoroughly washed and ground into soft, pliable masa (dough). The fresh masa is then dried and powdered, becoming masa harina (harina means flour). Though fresh masa is generally preferable to masa harina, it’s very perishable and therefore difficult to find outside of Mexico and its U.S. border states. Masa harina, on the other hand, has a shelf life closer to that of regular wheat flour. It’s a pantry staple even in areas where fresh masa is available. To use it, you simply add water.


Then we did not lovingly pat balls of dough into flat tortillas, but instead used the shortcut of a tortilla press: put the ball on the bottom plate of a tortilla press, and press the top plate down to flatten the dough. A Tor-Mex cast-iron tortilla press of the very sort we used on Beaumont Rd.:


An Azteca press in operation:


There are aluminum versions, and even plastic ones.

(Because of their gluten, wheat tortillas have to be rolled out flat with a rolling pin, like pasta dough. We never made wheat tortillas.)

Then lightly brown the tortillas on both sides in a hot skillet, and keep them warm on a platter for people to use as taco shells.

The additions. In small bowls on the table:

shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, chopped poblano chiles, chopped cilantro, sliced green olives, raisins; lime wedges for juice; possibly chopped parsley, avocado cubes, capers

(Note olives and cilantro in #1.) Mix and match to your taste. My man Jacques hated cilantro, so he never picked that. I always went heavy on cheese, cilantro, and olives.

Other versions of picadillo are stews, with beef broth, green peas, diced potatoes, and maybe carrots — and served on rice or as a thick soup.

And some people make picadillo from chicken or pork, or a mixture of ground meats.



2 Responses to “picadillo”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    If one eats too much of it, could one be considered to have committed a picadillo peccadillo?

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