Back in the saddle….er, at the stove….something

April 22, 2015

Picadillo in a pie.

Picadillo in a pie.

I am a firm believer in the concept that, if one completely botches a new recipe and screws up beyond all comprehension, one should get back to it immediately with another new recipe, rather than taking refuge in something easy, tried and true, foolproof.

Thus, the picadillo empanada. Cuban calzone. Something to that effect.

I’ve wanted for ages to try picadillo, the Cuban/Caribbean ground meat stew that features olives and raisins. I also had half a batch of pizza dough in the fridge that wanted to be used. Seemed reasonable enough to me. I’d make the picadillo, and encase it in a dough round, making a tidy little handpie that I’d bake.

Which is what I did.

Picadillo is pretty straightforward. I perused several recipes, and drew from all of them, to come up with mine.

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely minced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic or 8-10 cloves confited garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch cloves
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pimiento-stuffed olives
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained

I started out sauteeing the onion, and added the garlic when the onion got soft. Added the ground beef and pepper, and cooked, breaking up the lumps, until there was no longer any pink showing. Added the tomato paste and sauteed a bit more. I used a full can. It was too much. Use a half can or so. Added the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon and cloves, covered it, turned down the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so.

Added the olives, capers and raisins — I used Craisins, as I didn’t have raisins — and let that simmer another 15 minutes, and turned off the heat to let it cool.

Before I started this whole process, I got my pizza dough out and separated it into golf-ball sized lumps; there were five of them. I put them on an oiled plate and into a microwave in which I had just boiled a cup of water, to let them, if not rise, at least loosen up a little. Then I took each one, dusted it in some flour, and rolled it out into about a 6-8 inch circle on a floured board. Put  1/3 or so cup of filling on each, folded it over, and pressed and crimped the edges with a fork.

The five little pastries went onto a parchment paper covered pan and into a 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes. I let them cool a bit before we dug in.

These little sweeties are pretty doggoned good. The raisins/Craisins, rather than imparting an overall sweetness, provide little pops of sweet when you come across them, played off against the saltiness of the olives, which provide all the salt the dish needs.  It was a tad too tomato-ey for me, thus my recommendation to cut back on the tomato paste. The cinnamon and cloves were not assertive, just enough to tweak the “what IS that?” taste buds.

There would have been enough of the picadillo to have stuffed about 12 pies, had I had the pastry for them. The pizza crust makes an excellent vehicle for delivering the filling; while the lower heat doesn’t yield the crispy cracker-like crust  it does on a pizza baked in a screaming hot oven, it still offers a pleasantly crisp crust giving way to a tender interior. I brushed the top of my pies with a little milk, which I also used to seal the edges, to give it a little extra browning action.

I’ll make these again. They’d be good lunch snacks, or food for parties or such. In fact, I think they’d be a lot of fun to mix in with a platter of small calzone, with a variety of fillings. You could also do a more traditional taco meat filling, topped with queso fresco, for a more traditional empanada. And I want to try a shrimp, corn and crema version, just because I think that’d be wonderful. (H’mmm. I have shrimp and corn both in the freezer. Must consider this.)

Anyway. The spring rolls from hell are in the past. I have successfully tried a new dish. It’s spring, and my church is barbecuing several hundred chickens on Saturday, and the Farmers’ Market opens the following Saturday, and it’s local strawberry season. Don’t know about you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em, but here in the Chez Brockwell hood, life’s pretty good.



One Response to “Back in the saddle….er, at the stove….something”

  1. cleavelin Says:

    They look yummy. I wish I’d been around to sample. 🙂

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