Saturday, August 26, 2017


Don’t we all love ground meat? It’s all about versatility. From burgers to meatballs, kefta, meatloaf, stuffing for vegetables, pasta sauces and a lot more, ground meat makes for easy, quick cooking meals, often economical and usually kid-friendly.

Most minced meat recipes work equally well with beef, pork, lamb or chicken. In Spain, the preferred meat is pork, whether it’s for meatballs or stuffed peppers.

But I’ve taken to using ground chicken thighs instead, including for American-style meatloaf and burgers. What I totally avoid is prepared and packaged ground meat that contains additives and often fillers as well. I choose lean meat and have the butcher grind it for me. I add (healthful mono-unsaturated) olive oil to the grind to make it juicier.

Picadillo--ground meat, seasoned and fried.

This recipe for Spanish picadillo—minced meat that’s seasoned and sautéed--is a good example of the versatility of ground meat. As a main dish, it’s served in Galicia accompanied by cachelos, boiled potatoes, and cornbread; in Castilla y León with patatas fritas, in Andalusia, with rice.

Picadillo, like sloppy joes, is great on a toasted bun. Rolled in Mexican wheat flour tortillas, it’s an easy filling for burritos. Paired with a fried egg and fried bread, picadillo is a big breakfast or light supper. Add picadillo to beans, chickpeas or lentils for a satisfying meal. And, it sure is terrific on top of pasta.

Serve picadillo on a toasted bun for a kid-friendly meal.

Serve picadillo over a mound of rice.

Breakfast or supper? Picadillo with a fried egg and triangles of fried bread.

Picadillo with pasta, olé.
You can add ingredients to the meat mix—sliced olives, corn kernels, diced zucchini, mushrooms, chopped spinach, diced carrots—and change the seasoning to suit your mood. Vary the type of pimentón (paprika) in the seasoning. Use sweet plus picante (hot) and smoked and unsmoked.

Minced Meat Sauté
Picadillo de Carne

Use ground pork, beef, lamb or chicken for the picadillo. Season the meat and allow it to marinate, refrigerated, for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours. When frying the meat, spread it in a hot skillet and let it fry 2 or 3 minutes without stirring. That allows the meat to brown before it starts giving off liquid. Then use a wooden spatula to turn and break up the globs of meat. The picadillo can be fairly chunky or broken into small bits. Remove the meat and all its juices from the skillet before making the sofrito of onions, peppers and tomato.

Serves 4.

1 pound ground meat (pork, chicken, beef or lamb)
3 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon sweet pimentón (paprika)
¼ teaspoon smoked pimentón picante or a pinch of cayenne
Pinch of thyme
¼ cup white wine
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
¼ cup sliced olives (optional)
Chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

Place the ground meat in a bowl. Crush the garlic in a mortar with the coarse salt. Add the two kinds of pimentón, thyme, wine and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic mixture to the meat. Use the hands to mix it thoroughly into the meat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Spread the ground meat in the skillet and let it brown, without stirring. Then use a wooden spatula to break up the meat and turn it. Continue cooking until meat loses its pink color and is fairly loose. Remove meat to a bowl and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Sauté the onion and green and red peppers on medium heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, turn up the heat, and cook 5 minutes until they give off their liquid.

Return the meat and its juices to the skillet. Add sliced olives, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. The meat should still be juicy, though without a lot of liquid.remaining. (If the picadillo is to be served with pasta, add a ladle of pasta-cooking water to the meat before removing from the heat.)

Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley. 

For more about types of pimentón:
More recipes for ground meat:
Meatballs in Almond Sauce.
Middle Eastern Meatball Soup.
Squid Stuffed with Ground Meat.
Lamb Roll Wrapped in Chard.
Chicken and Partridge Pâté.
Peppers Stuffed with Ground Pork.
Stuffed Cabbage.
Meat-Stuffed Eggplant.
Picadillo for Chorizo.

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