I was first introduced to picadillo-- the spicy beef dish traditional to Spain and other Latin American countries-- by the folks at La Mano Coffee Bar in Takoma, D.C. Shortly after they opened in fall of 2013, I stopped by for a coffee and quick lunch bite and tried their beef picadillo hand pie. It was heaven, with juicy tomatoes, ample spice and a touch of sweetness in a flaky, buttery crust. I've craved it ever since. Eventually, I worked up the courage to email them and ask for the recipe, a request which co-owner Anna Petrillo graciously obliged.
I've been making that beef picadillo pie often lately, finally settling on a somewhat adapted recipe that works well as a main course as well as a potluck contribution. While some picadillo includes raisins and olives, I veer towards spicy and tang rather than sweet and salty. Gordy's Thai Basil Jalapeños are perfect for that extra kick, and the addition of the crust and mashed potato toping provides the antidote to the heat.
Anna included a few additional tips with her recipe, which I'll include here:
I did not grow up eating picadillo, but I have always enjoyed dishes that start with a base and can be modified to one's own tastes and depending on what's in the cupboard. Over the years I have had many versions of picadillo made by friends, during traveling, and in restaurants. Everyone has their own take on it. I think the important points to remember for this are:
1) Make sure you mince up the ground beef into as small as chunks as possible as it's cooking ("picadillo" means "mince") so the meat can absorb and be coated with the spices and sauce.
2) Try to create a balance of all the main flavors: 1) sweet, 2) salty/tangy, and 3) spicy. Tomatoes, olives, and raisins seem to be common elements but it's fun to experiment with ratios or look for items in your pantry that you can throw in to create those flavors. I've made it with all types of brined items like anchovies and olives, different types of vinegars or wine, and different spices like thyme, tumeric, bay leaf, etc.
For a hand pie, because you're only getting three or four bites, and it all has to stand up against a salty, buttery crust, you want a lot of flavor packed in the meat. So I go heavy on all the flavors. It also helps if you let the mixture sit overnight to allow the flavors to blend. The meat mixture is also delicious just with rice and beans or tortillas if you don't want to use it as a stuffing. Good luck!
Adapted from La Mano Coffee Bar
Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
For the beef picadillo:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 shallots, minced
1 ounce ginger root, finely grated
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
1/4 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon salt (more, to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice (optional)
1/2 Tablespoon Sriracha (optional to taste)
1 large can (about 25 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup Gordy's Thai Basil Jalapeños (or other pickled jalapeños)
1/8 cup vinegar
1/8 cup lime juice
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional, to taste)
Egg wash (leftover 1/2 egg and 1/2 Tablespoon whole milk or cream)
For the mashed potatoes:
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 Tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1 cup whole milk or heavy cream
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Pepper, to taste
For the crust:
1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash and saving other half of the recipe in the freezer for a future pie. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use.
For the beef picadillo:
1. Brown ground beef in olive oil (if needed) until cooked through and no more pink remains. Add the onion, garlic, and shallots, cooking over medium high heat until onions are softened and translucent. Mix in the ginger root, oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, chili powder, and salt 1 teaspoon salt. Add in the cinnamon or allspice and Sriracha, if using. Cook for another few minutes until spices are fragrant. Use a large spoon to break up the meat chunks until finely chopped.
2. Add in crushed tomatoes, capers, jalapeños, vinegar, and lime juice. Simmer 20 minutes or until the liquids are reduced, continuing to break up meat chunks. If the mixture seems too dry, add some water.
3. Add chopped cilantro leaves and 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, pre-dissolved in small amount of water. Simmer 1-2 minutes until the mixture is a little thickened. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary. If too tangy, add sugar, to taste. Once cooked, allow mixture to cool to room temperature before filling pie crust.
For the mashed potatoes:
1. Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in a pot, covered with water and 1/2 Tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil over low heat until potatoes are soft and tender when pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes and return to the pot or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
2. With the mixer, immersion blender, or a potato masher, mash potatoes until smooth. Add butter, stirring quickly to melt. Mix in milk or cream, then add salt and pepper to taste.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Scoop beef picadillo filling into refrigerated pie crust, filling just to the beginnings of the crust flute (you may have some leftover filling). Mound mashed potatoes on top. Brush crust with egg wash. Place pie in oven and bake for 30 minutes until crust is browned and filling is bubbling. Serve warm and enjoy!
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