My father-in-law is of Cuban descent. He came to the US in the 70’s after escaping and climbing a fence into gitmo. He was granted immunity and first came to Florida with the help of the US government, then Chicago, and eventually to Rockford, IL where he has been ever since. He married the lady who is now my mother-in-law in 1975 and together they created two children. One being my amazing, wonderful husband.
The whole story is long and complicated and fascinating but very little of it pertains to food. Suffice it to say, he came here with very little. The clothes on his back, the shoes on his feet, and the recipes in his mind. He became a US citizen in 2008, after something like 35 years here, at age 72 and now at 76, he is starting to lose those precious recipes he came here with but I’ve managed to get some of them from him before they’re lost for good. Now, mind you, I don’t know how much of the recipes that I have have been Americanized for ease and taste, but they’re the most authentic Cuban food this woman-of-European-descent has eaten so to me, they’re like precious gold that needs to be preserved as much as possible because we don’t know how long we have left with dear Abuelo.
I will say that I’m not good at rice and beans. I can make rice and beans, yes, but mine is always more moist than his and never quite right. It’s close enough though if you add other things to it, like this picadillo.
3 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 packet sazon
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
salt, to taste
roughly 8-10 green olives
Brown beef until most of the way cooked. Add onions, garlic, sazon, and tomatoes. Cook until onions are just translucent. Add salt and olives and allow to simmer another five minutes or so. If the dish is dry, without a bit of juice, add a quarter cup or so of water and allow to flavor through.
Serve over rice and beans.
I’ve always tried to “wing it” with beef stew, and it always ends up like soup with flour clumps. This time I found a recipe online and tweaked it just a bit, only because I didn’t have everything it called for in the seasoning department, and it was excellent. I decided to have an early taste of Autumn, as you’ll see by the menu I list below, and this was perfect.
2 pounds beef stew meat cubes
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp paprika
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth (next time I’ll use beef just because, but this is what I had)
splash of red wine
5 red potatoes, cut into chunks
4 carrots, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup fresh green beans
Place meat in slow cooker. Pour flour over and stir well with a spoon to coat meat on all sides. Add remaining ingredients, and cook on low for 8 hours.
Had I not had rolls, apple pie, ice cream, and hot cocoa to go with the stew, this would have fed 4 people, give or take. Since I had so much other stuff, it fed 8.