Thursday, October 21, 2010

Picadillo de Puerca a.k.a Cuban Pork Hash

Picadillo is a traditional Latin American dish that usually features ground beef but you can easily substitute "puerca" or ground pork. The word derives from the Spanish word picar which means "to mince or chop" as well as small bits and pieces. Hash is a bunch of ingredients tossed together, mixtures of meat, vegatables, spices mashed into a coarse paste and then cooked.

Many countries have their own versions of hash. This Cuban version features a combination of sweet and savory ingredients: raisins, pimentio-stuffed green olives along with tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic and spices. A traditional side of Cuban black beans and rice accompanies the dish.

I like the concept of Hash dishes as you really don't need a recipe. Grab what is in the pantry and chop it up and mix it together and cook it up. Serve it with rice or tortillas, stuff it between bread or in an empanada, mix it in with scrambled eggs. Varieties are endless but I enjoy experiencing the authenticity of the dish.

Here we go, lots to prep in the kitchen. I started out cooking the rice because when it is done, the rice can sit for awhile. Plan ahead for the beans. They need over two hours to cook because they are not the canned version. I usually chop up all my vegatables and arrange my mise-en-place.

Cuban black beans with Rice (Frijoles Negros)
  • 1.5 lbs of black beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, split
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 12 green onions, finely chopped
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper
Wash the beans and place in large pot. Add bay leaves and oregano and 1 tablespoon oil. Cover beans with water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours until beans are tender.

Taste check the beans after 1.5 hours for tenderness. Near the end of cooking time for beans, start cooking the sofrito. In Cuban cuisine, sofrito is a combination of garlic, green bell peppers and onions. Much like the French's mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) or New Orleans cajun/creole's Holy Trinity (onions, celery, green bell peppers), these versions are bases for stews/soups, etc..

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on low-medium heat and add a tablespoon of cumin with the onions, garlic, and peppers. Stir often and cook it low and slow for about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add it to the beans.

I don't like my beans watery so I drained out some of the bean water but kept about a half cup to a cup of water in the pot. Mix sofrito into beans. Cook for another 10-15 minutes stirring often. You can keep the rice and bean separate on the plate but I usually mash them together so I added the rice to the pot of beans.

Keep taste testing the rice to check for seasoning. I added a few extra sprinkles of salt and cumin to get it at the right point. Damn, I have a pot half-filled with frijoles negros!

Now to the main dish.

Picadillo de Puerca a.k.a Cuban Pork Hash

With about 30 minutes left with the rice and beans, I started cooking the hash. I wanted time for the rice and beans to cool slightly while the hash was fresh and hot out of the pan. My mise-en-place:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 lbs of ground pork
  • 3/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 cup of slivered almonds
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup of green pimiento-stuffed olives, halved (not pictured, forgot to include in photo)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oil over medium heat and add onions and peppers. Cook 10 minutes or until soft. Next, add cinnamon, oregano, cloves, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Be careful on the amount of the ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon doesn't seem like a lot but the taste is powerful and you sense its aroma as soon as it hits the heat.

Add ground pork and cook for about 10 minutes.

Be sure to mix it all around to brown the pork and incorporate all the spices. Season with salt and pepper and add the raisins, olives and tomatoes. Cook until the liquid has evaporated, 20 minutes or so. At the end, add the almonds and red wine vinegar.

It looks really good at this point but cook it until most of the liquid is gone. You don't want a soupy hash on the plate.

Ah, finally done! Kitchen smells awesome, a few beers aided me along the way, have a ton of rice and beans, and cuban food begging to be consumed. You could go the easy, fast route and use canned black beans and just cook the sofrito into them but I had the time and wanted to take the more authentic route. I recommend it as the beans were super.

Picadillo isn't beautiful on the plate but damn does it taste great. I haven't been to Cuba but tasting this dish gives me at least a small impression. Bold, blasting flavors mixed with pleasant surprises. The tomato was very prevelant as the base to the dish, it kept the ground pork in line too. But I was entertained by the competition between the sweet raisin flavor versus the salty-briny green olive. There are a great match! Maybe not for a Blue Sapphire martini but for this cuisine, yes! And the crunch from the almond really made I think. It added a nice texture to the slow-stewed hash. The spices really take stage too. The cinnamon and clove are quite noticable but at the good amount. It will a few more workings of this dish to nail the exact amount of cinnamon and clove but be sure to not over season. The cuban rice and beans were a great accompanment too. Great cumin flavor seasoned the tender beans.

The meal was a bit filling from the meat and starchy quality of the rice but after all the effort, I needed to fill myself up. This is a great example why I love ethnic foods, simple yet big flavors. Sure, it takes a lot of time and but sans rice and beans, the picadillo shouldn't take you more than 30-45 minutes of prep and cook. Don't be afraid, buy a big pot and get to work.

Comer Bien!!

I enjoyed it so much I had some for breakfest!


  1. Oh, gosh. I'm drooling. Just the concept of hash makes me excited, since it's a great way to use up all sorts of leftovers in the fridge. and picadillo... well, that's just plain delicious.

  2. The last photo is porkographic! I'm inspired.