Cuban Picadillo (Ground Beef)

Here is my family recipe for Picadillo, which I have slightly adapted over the years to my wife’s taste (she’s Cuban-American). And I will say it’s a better taste now. I used to not like Picadillo, and had to eat it with bananas or crackers to mask the taste. Now, it’s a family favorite.

1 lb ground beef (non lean) get the one with some fat for more taste. 

1 small can of tomato sauce, I recommend hunts, no salt added. 

1/4 chopped green bell pepper

1/4 chopped red bell pepper

1/4 chopped yellow onion (vidalia onions are hard to find but are the best) if you get the tiny Spanish ones use half. 

1 teaspoon of minced garlic. I buy the one that comes minced in oil in a small jar. No point in buying whole garlic. 

1 bay leave. 

Salt to taste, probably half to 1 teaspoon. 

1/2 teaspoon black pepper. 

6 olives

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin. 

1 teaspoon Sazon Completa (complete seasoning)

1/4 cup white wine (pick your favorite ), dry vermouth is good

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon olive oil
First make what we call the sofrito. Sauté the veggies in the canola oil along with the spices, some salt and pepper and just a dab of the tomato sauce so it absorbs the tastes. Don’t let it dry with too much heat but it should summer like a fajita. Once it starts to turn slightly brown or the garlic starts to look roasted, lower the heat just keep it warm for now. Toss in the beef, bay leaves, olive oil, the rest of the tomatoe sauce and keep to a slow boil, turning and breaking up the meat as necessary, so that there are no chucks. And then leave at medium heat ( a very low boil). Stir occasionally. Now add the white wine, the rest of the tomato sauce and the Spanish olives. Let it cook on medium to low heat (too much heat will dry it) for about 15 minutes. A little goes a long way. Also, don’t add more salt, once it’s cooked and not as watery it will be salty. Let me know how it goes 🙂

 

photo credit: Margia Arguello
 
PS. I created this for a special friend 😉 and she said it came out great. She also added capers and ginger which I have never thought of. Cubans aren’t big on ginger. Capers are usually included in the recipe, so props to her for putting that in too. I don’t use capers though, I think it is more of a Spanish thing than it is Cuban. Enjoy! And please comment below if you try it.

Cuban Man v. Cuban Food

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Media Noche @ Casavana, Town & Country, Miami

On a recent trip to Miami we had a gathering at a local Cuban restaurant to keep my taste buds in check. We went to the local chain restaurant Casavana, to which I personally had never been. I ordered the “Media Noche” (midnight Sandwhich) and let’s just say I could only eat half. I had the other half for dinner. A true Cuban made sandwich is so thick you have to either share it, or be a big person on an empty stomach. On top of that, and Atlanta restaurant owners need take note, it was only $6.49. And just how much meat is enough meat to fill you up? These photos speak for themselves. 

   

This Sandwhich does NOT come on Cuban bread though, be advised. It is sweet bread very much like a potato roll, just a bit crunchy and glazed when it comes off the press. As far as rating it, I give it a 7 on a 10 point scale. The cheese was ok, the meats had little flavor, and the overall taste was not really something to make you love it. But, I do recommend anyone traveling to Miami stop into this restaurant for a taste. The selection and service will make you feel like your in the best parts of Cuba.

Now I know how a lot of people might feel about this and other blogs regarding the good and bad Cuban food in Atlanta…”Well then go have your Sandwhich in Miami!” And I know my Miami friends are shaking their heads saying I will never find anything authentic. But here is the thing, Atlanta has far better tasting pickles than Miami, far far better tasting pork and ham (and meats overall) too, and more than anything, I am doing this for my friends here at home in Atlanta! Friends who want to find THE BEST Cuban food in Atlanta and not be fooled. Some day you feel like eating Cuban, and when that day comes, I don’t want you to be let down.

I leave with a thanks to my friends from Miami for joining us for a huge Cuban lunch! My search continues here in scenic Georgia, will keep you posted.

-Cuban Man v. Cuban Food

 

Sunday Cuban Lunch in Atlanta @ Havana South

I’ll begin my second review and 3rd experience with Sunday’s choice for a Miami-Cuban lunch. After many years of having a casual Sunday brunch at La Carreta in Miami, this Sunday called for tradition. We went to our nearby restaurant called Havana South, near Buford, and about 30 minutes Northeast of Downtown Atlanta.

I will start with all the good things this place has going. As far as atmosphere and setting, this place is not only just like Miami, it is actually better than a few places back in the MIA. Congrats! The window tints have to go though, from outside it looked like the place was closed, and in Miami we sacrifice value for looks, get some Venetian blinds and you will rock the look!

The best part of this Cuban food in Atlanta experience is that 3 of us went. Yes, 3 Cuban-Americans, though more American than we are Hispanic, we know Cuban food, believe me.

My wife shared the “chuleta” (pork chop) with our daughter. She asked for a side of “moros” (black beans and riced cooked toghether) and “tostones” (fried green plantains). Funny thing is, they offered white or yellow rice and she was like, “moros”??? Yes, they had some. They ordered their favorite Miami drink flavored after Cuban soda. It’s called “Materva”. Try it, you can thank her later. lol.

I really put this cook to the challenge though. The experience so far was so good I went with a traditional, very Cuban food, and usually only home cooked “ropa vieja” (pulled beef in a tomato base sauce). I backed that up with “moros” as well, but did “maduros” which is fried plantain also, but made from ripe plantains instead of green ones; same banana, different stage. “Tostones” is green and goes good with a bit of salt and garlic oil. “Maduros” are ripe and sweet and go alone.

We were excited! The staff was friendly and had that easy going Miami character found in only the best spots! Congrats again! They were not Cuban, and that didn’t matter. They are not always Cuban in Miami either.

Now comes the Cuban food in Atlanta. My “ropa vieja” and “moros” looked perfect. Had the right portions and I could finally say that Atlanta has Cuban food. The “maduros” tasted excellent, well done Atlanta! My wife’s tostones were also very tasteful, fresh, and cooked just right! Cuban food in Atlanta!

Ok here is the critic on this Atlanta Cuban food, please note this is meant to be constructive as I realize only a mouth familiar with a regional taste could have done it better. And that is a compliment (to) the chef, who was Mexican. This place is not far from getting it right.IMG_9470

First, on the “moros”, I can make better ones with canned Goya beans. These were dry beans, and had no taste. My guess, they don’t cook the beans well until soft, and they just mix unseasoned beans with white rice. The result, hard dry beans bitter on the inside, and tasteless rice overall. Would not order this again. Then, my meat, the “ropa vieja”. All I can say is that I know the ingredients were all correct, and were all there, but I could not taste them? I kept digging into the sauce to get the flavor out of it until finally I just had to add a bit of salt and bingo! There was plenty leftover for lunch the next day and the salt had marinated well with the sauce, it tasted perfect day 2! I recommend it with a grain of salt, no pun intended! lol. The “chuletas” on the other hand had the wrong seasoning. They seasoned it like we do whole pork, which is a good taste, but only for a whole pork so for this pork chop it was way too overpowering. Pork chop should be done with simple light seasonings. But overall well done, and tasted like Cuban food. No leftovers on that.

Finally, we wrapped up our Cuban food in Atlanta challenge with the apple pie of Cuban desserts, a “flan”. It was excellent! I only know of one place in Miami that can do it better, and it’s the best place to get flan in Miami (El Emperador). Congrats a 3rd time! We love it. I’d have a second one if I wasn’t watching my figure. Not only was it Miami, good, it was Cuban grandma Good!FLAN (Like a syrup cheesecake)

Check out Havana South on Buford Highway neat Mall of Georgia and mention you want to try the foods on this post! You will have a Cuban food in Atlanta experience. I promise it will be a like drive down to Miami on many levels. And as for the crew at Havana South, thank you and see you again real soon!

Cuban Man vs. Cuban Food

First taste experience @ Havana Sandwich Shop, Atlanta

Since this is my first post let me add some background info on myself and where my taste buds come from. I am Cuban born and raised in Miami, so Atlanta get ready, because I know Cuban food. I love all foods and love to cook. My grandfather was a chef in Cuba and Miami and taught me many things about prepping, marinating, and cooking our traditional foods. While I intend to make helpful reviews this is primarily intended to be a fun blog to help others with my interest to find good Cuban food in Atlanta, as it seems too many places use the Cuban name arbriterally on non-Cuban and Cuban “like” food.

From Havana Sandwhich Shop
The Cuban @ Havana Sandwhich Shop
This is is my second Cuban lunch in the city. Havana Sandwhich Shop had a nice setting on a weekday at lunch, clean, busy, and service was fast. The Sandwhich I ordered was #1 on the menu, the Cuban. The Sandwhich packed a proper portion of meat (could have used a bit more ham) and both the pork and cheese were very flavorful. Overall, a good lunch, but it lacked some major things that a great Cuban Sandwhich always delivers. First, they don’t use Cuban bread. I don’t know what bread that is, it’s the second time I have it here in Atlanta, and it needs to go. It’s a crumbly, hard, tasteless, dark bread that doesn’t exist in Cuba or Miami. Stop it! Lol. Then they really missed it on taste because they use pickles that have no taste and if it had mustard, I couldn’t taste it. Again, a good Sandwhich, but if I were blindfolded, I may not have recognized it was a Cuban Sandwich like many others I have eaten before.

Havana Sandwhich Shop did have some of my favorite Miami drinks. I had the Jupiña and highly recommend it with your lunch. It’s a must try. I recommend this restaurant and look forward to coming back to try something else.

Side note…What’s with places serving yellow rice and black beans? That’s definetly not a Cuban or Miami custom. Stop that too please, it’s doesn’t taste good (or Cuban) and it does not make the food any better.

Lastly, and take note people, the Cuban Sandwhich is intended to be a cheap and heavy mouthful. It should be hard to finish the thing, and this one went down like nothing. Any place selling it for more than $6 is definetly overpriced! Like we would say in Miami “Oye acere como coño van a cobrar tanto por un pancito con lechon y mostaza?!” (How the hell can you charge so much for a slice of bread, pork and some mustard) seriously.

Until next time…dale!