Being transplanted to Tampa over 20 years ago has opened my eyes to the culinary wonders of Cuban food: black beans and rice, Cuban sandwiches, arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), café con leche, and this dish, Picadillo. Tampa’s Cuban community originated in the late 1800s in what is now Ybor City, named after its founder, Vicente Martinez Ybor, and continues to be a huge cultural and culinary influence on the City of Tampa.
I found this history of picadillo from Tampa’s Junior League, a philanthropic and social organization that, among other things, is famous for its locally-based cookbooks, which have graced Tampa kitchen counters since 1961: The name comes from the Spanish word “picar,” meaning “to chop” or “to mince,” and it seems that many Latin American countries have their own twist on the basic ground beef recipe. In Mexico, it’s sweetened with honey, giving it a teriyaki-like taste. In Puerto Rico, it is used as the filling for empanadas and can include cheese, ham and rum-soaked raisins. In the Dominican Republic, picadillo can include hard-boiled egg and a bouillon cube. The Cuban version is a balance of sweet-salty due to the pimento-stuffed olives, capers, vinegar and raisins.