If anyone ever challenges my right to the title of Ultimate Procrastinator, they'd better look out ... eventually. Last night I was approaching the last hours of a deadline and had buckets of laundry to do, but instead, I decided to make picadillo. Managing to turn a simple 40-minute recipe into a three-hour one is a skill that takes years to master. But if you'll allow me, I'll attempt to share.
Earlier this evening, I received an email from my mother, with this recipe attached, and a note saying the recipe was great, and that she'd made it exactly as directed (minus the green pepper and potatoes). It's worth mentioning that my mom is an amazing cook. She can and will make anything and often doesn't need much of a recipe to do so. What she can't do, however, is follow a recipe to the letter. I'm more of a "test once, then fiddle" type of cook, so it will probably make her laugh to read about how little of this recipe I actually used.
Picadillo, in my mind, was the chili-like food that I ate before I knew I liked chili. It's beefy and sweet and full of olives. It's full of flavors without anything being overpowering or too assertive. This recipe had neither cinnamon nor raisins, two key (in my mind at least) components of picadillo. Plus, I'm trying to save my ground beef consumption for burgers. Ground turkey would be a leaner alternative. With these things in mind, I sought out another recipe that would include everything I wanted to eat. It wasn't quite right, but with both in hand, I set out for the store.
To Market, To Market
Shopping at my local supermarket is often an exercise in futility. From visit to visit, the products stocked will vary significantly, and I usually have to case the store before becoming too committed to any particular meal. Tonight, I was in luck, as they actually had ground turkey. Finding the raisins proved to be slightly more difficult, and thank goodness I already had all the spices I needed at home. A half an hour later, I had six ingredients in two plastic bags.
Mincing the garlic was no big deal, but I dreaded chopping the large white onion. My eyes overflowed with tears and I stood as far away from the cutting board as possible, trying to remember any useful trick for dealing with the stuff. Several irregular pieces of onion later, I still hadn't thought of any. I pondered the effectiveness of bay leaves as I added them to the pan, and wondered if I was the only one who thinks there's a conspiracy in ingredients you use temporarily. The turkey, infuriatingly enough, was available in 1.3- and 3-pound packages (I only needed 2). I had carried the smaller pack around for a while before deciding on freezing the excess in the larger. The other two thirds went into the pan and began to cook.
An Unexpected Pitfall
My plan was to prepare the rest of the ingredients while the turkey browned. I only needed seven minutes or so, and thought that would be more than enough time to open a can, measure some spices, and slice some olives. That, of course, was before I discovered my olives had pits. Argh!
Though I worship at the church of Alton Brown, my heart was calling out for a unitasker (Brown hates them) as I attempted to pit 3/4 cup of olives. A knife wasn't very efficient. The side of a spoon was a small improvement. The meat browned away next to me, and my mind drifted off to friends who are getting married this summer and the items on their registries. If my boyfriend had been home, I would have already sent him to the store for pre-pitted olives. Left home alone, I wondered if olive pitters and grapefruit spoons were reason enough to get engaged.
I drained the meat and shut off the heat while hulling the remainder of olives. An hour or so had passed. I added the tomatoes and spices to the pot, and realized things looked a little dry. No biggie, I thought, just add the tomato paste one recipe had called for. Well, no problem, of course, if I actually had the stuff. I didn't. The other recipe called for beef stock, but I had no luck there either. Struggling to pull the swollen cork out of some leftover white wine, I dumped half a cup in the pot and significantly more in a glass. I added the olives and raisins, and turned back on the heat.
In what was supposed to be eight minutes but was probably more like 20, I decided the picadillo was done. Time to eat, right? Not without rice, it wasn't.
And like magic, it was three hours later. And instead of eating right away, I took pictures. And instead of putting away the leftovers right away, I wrote this article. And I still haven't started on the laundry or the other project. Maybe tomorrow.
Without further stalling, I give you:
- Yield:6, probably takes you less time than it took me
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 Turkish bay leaves
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 1 can (14 1/2-ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 3/4 cup sliced drained (pitted) pimiento-stuffed green olives
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Some cinnamon, oregano, and cumin (whatever smells good)
- Salt and pepper
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and bay leaves; sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add turkey; sauté until cooked, breaking up into chunks. Drain. Add all remaining ingredients. Simmer until picadillo thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaves. Serve warm over yellow rice (and with black beans if desired).