Friday, December 5, 2008

"Babalu! Favorite Recipes from the World's Top Latin Chefs and Celebrities" - Arnaz Picadillo

Date I made this recipe: November 30, 2008

Babalu! Favorite Recipes from the World’s Top Latin Chefs and Celebrities by Michael Valdes and Art Torres
Published by: General Publishing Group
ISBN: 1575440318 © 1998

Recipe: Arnaz Picadillo (a kind of Cuban hash) – p. 16 (p. 17 contains instructions in Spanish)

So Thanksgiving has come and gone and for the first time ever, I didn’t cook a Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, my husband, mother-in-law and I went out to a restaurant for a Thanksgiving buffet and because of that, I didn’t have any leftovers. But not to worry, people, my dinner inspiration came to me whilst I was lounging around all Thanksgiving weekend watching TV, in particular I Love Lucy on TV Land.

TV Land is a cable station that shows reruns of favorite shows and my favorite show of all time is I Love Lucy. TV Land ran a mini-marathon of Lucy episodes and one that I watched this weekend was Job Switching, the famous episode where Lucy and Ethel get a job in the chocolate factory and end up stuffing their faces and clothing with chocolates when the supervisor speeds up the assembly line thinking they were incredibly speedy at wrapping chocolates. Of course, it all goes wrong and they end up coming home sicker than a dog from all the chocolates they were forced to eat in an attempt to keep their jobs (because if one, stray chocolate got done the line unwrapped, they would be fired).

I have to confess that this is on my personal list as a top-ten favorite. It’s funny all right but to me, it’s not so much because of the chocolate factory, it’s what happened when Ricky and Fred said they’d take care of the house if the women went to work.

First, Ricky serves Lucy a delicious breakfast, pretending that he made it before Lucy finds out he got it at the corner drugstore. Then Ricky tries to make chicken and rice but decides that a pound of rice per person should do and of course, the pot overflows sending rice flowing down to the floor like molten lava. Then Fred walks in on Ricky ironing Lucy’s stockings and tells Ricky he’s got it all wrong -- you don't iron the stockings, you starch them and then presents Ricky with a pair of stockings that are stiffer than a board. I found all that to be pretty hilarious.

So the premise of this episode was the ineptitude of the sexes doing each other’s jobs, particularly the men, but in fact, Desi Arnaz, the actor who played Ricky Ricardo (and who was also married in real life to Lucille Ball who played Lucy), was a great cook. I read this in several books but it was confirmed in this cookbook tome but daughter Lucie Arnaz who submitted her version of Picadillo. Picadillo, as she states, is like a Cuban (or Puerto Rican) hash. And so what the heck—after spending half my Thanksgiving weekend watching a marathon session of I Love Lucy reruns, I thought I’d give it a try.

I enjoyed this recipe a lot my only complaint being that the potatoes didn’t brown as I expected them to but no matter, the dish was still delicious. I served it over white rice since that’s how it was served to me when I was in Puerto Rico. And I tell you what, if we Americans are ever allowed to visit Cuba again, I will be there in a New York minute, if only to step back in time and imagine my favorite Cuban bandleader there singing his famous hit song (and title of the book) Babalu and cooking his famous picadillo.

Arnaz Picadillo - Serves 6 to 8
1 medium onion
1 medium green bell pepper
4 cloves (or more) garlic
3 small potatoes
1 large egg, hard-boiled
½ cup canned baby peas
2 large pimientos
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup Spanish olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground beef
½ cp canned crushed tomatoes (fresh would be terric, just peel them or substitute tomato sauce)
¼ cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
¼ cup dark raisins
Salt and black pepper

Chop the onion, seed and chop the bell pepper, mince the garlic, peel the potatoes and chop into ¼-inch pieces, chop the egg, drain the peas and chop the pimientos.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and toss in the chopped potatoes. Fry until crispy brown (10 to 12 minutes). Set pan aside.

In a large, deep skillet or casserole pot, heat the olive oil over low heat until it begins to smell fantastic. Add the garlic and onion and stir it up a bit. Then add the bell pepper. Stir over low heat for 8 to 12 minutes (or until tender). Add ground beef and stir until it turns brown (maybe 10 minutes0.

Add the tomatoes and any juices, sherry, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco. Stir over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes. No need to cover.

Toss in the potatoes and raisins. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until the liquid is absorbed (maybe another 10 minutes0.

When it’s ready, serve on a large platter. Make a small hole in the center and sprinkle the chopped egg into it. Decorate the outer rim with the peas and lay the pimiento pieces wherever they make you happy.

Note: You will want to drain off the ridiculously large amount of grease this dish generates before adding the tomatoes and other ingredients. I filled a small pasta bowl with the drippings from this dish – yikes!

P.S. - a blog reader sent this posting to a Puerto Rican friend who in turn sent him a left-over recipe suggestion: What Puerto Rican and Domincans also do with the picadillo left-overs -- You take a very ripe yellow plaintain, peel it then split it right down the middle with out cutting into two pieces. Scoop some picadillo all along the inside of the platano and then wrap in tinfoil. Place in oven at 375 for about 30-35 minutes and you then have a second delicious serving of picadillo. Thanks for the suggestion, Dick!

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