This Cuban picadillo with plantains is a quick and tasty Whole30 meal that covers all the flavor bases: sweet, savory, tangy, spicy, and creamy.
Big news! The third book in Melissa Joulwan’s best-selling Well Fed series is almost here, and in my opinion, it’s the best one yet. Well Fed Weeknights is packed full of creative and delicious dinner recipes that can all be made in 45 minutes or less. I’ve been a fan of Mel’s scrumptious recipes ever since I first made her carnitas years ago, so I was super excited when I got my hands on a preview copy of the book. Since I love Cuban food and especially adore plantains, this picadillo with plantains called out to me right away.
Picadillo is sort of like a hash made with ground beef and various other additions depending on the country each version hails from. This Cuban one starts off with onion, garlic, and a fragrant mix of spices starring cumin, coriander, and cinnamon, and is finished off with chunks of green plantain, sweet raisins, and green olives. The picadillo is then served with lime slices, scallions, cilantro, and–if you’re me and you like to try out food trends but usually do so several months late–avocado roses. The result is a dish that’s satisfying and interesting in the best way, with sweet pops of raisin, sour olives, perfectly spiced meat, chewy plantains, and creamy avocado coming together to make quite a flavor party.
The weeknight fun doesn’t stop there, though: the book has 128 recipes for complete meals, and they are all colorful, nutritious, and well-balanced. Some of the recipes are basic formulas with a bunch of unique variations. For example, Mel shares a technique for velvet stir-fry and then 8 different iterations, including Hoisin Mushroom Chicken and Orange Beef with Walnuts. She also has 8 different burger ideas that make me want to spend 8 days a week eating burgers. I also can’t wait to try Moroccan Steak Salad with Fig & Pistachio Dressing, Bacon-Jalapeño Balls with Everything Carrots, Dan Dan Noodles, and Sesame-Almond Cod with Cauliflower Rice.
Ready to order and make your weeknights endlessly delicious? Get it right here!
To keep you well fed while you await the book’s arrival, why not whip up a batch of this picadillo with plantains right now? Only half an hour stands between you and all of this!
- 2 large green plantains
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ medium yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves (I used allspice instead)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ pounds ground beef
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup raisins
- ⅓ cup small pimiento-stuffed green olives (I used regular green olives, sliced)
- Lime slices, fresh cilantro, sliced scallions (I added avocado roses*)
- Boil the plantains. Cut off both ends of each plantain, then with the tip of a sharp knife, make shallow slits lengthwise along the skin. Use your fingers to pry o the strips and discard the skins. Cut the plantains into ½-inch pieces and place them in a saucepan. Add the salt and enough water to cover the plantains by about two inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until a knife slides into the plantain with no resistance, about 10–12 minutes. Meanwhile...
- Make the picadillo seasoning. Warm the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, 2 minutes. While the oil heats, finely dice the onion then add to the pan and cook until softened, 7–10 minutes. Peel and crush the garlic cloves and place in a small bowl with the cumin, salt, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaf. Add the garlic-spice mixture to the pan and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Cook the beef. Crumble the ground beef into the pan and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it’s no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Push the meat to the side of the pan and drop in the tomato paste; fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the water, vinegar, and raisins; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 3–4 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. While it cooks, prep the garnishes: cut the lime into wedges, mince the cilantro, and slice the scallions.
- Bring it home. Drain the plantains and add them to the meat, along with the olives. Stir to combine and cook for 1–2 minutes.
- To serve, divide the picadillo among individual bowls and top with the garnishes.
Replace the beef with ground pork, turkey, or lamb.
Make it Puerto Rican style: add capers and cooked potatoes instead of plantains.
Make it Dominican: add hard-boiled eggs.
Make it Filipino: skip the olives and add a fried egg on top of each serving.
Boil the plantains, make the spice blend, and prep the garnishes in advance. Store everything in separate airtight containers in the fridge. Just before eating, cook the meat and combine with the plantains.
*Want to learn to make an avocado rose? Check out this video.
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