Sometimes I don’t feel like getting all jiggy with it in the kitchen. Most times, that feeling doesn’t work so well with my over-the-top appetite. That conflict poses a problem of sorts. It means I go for fast food at establishments I have no business patronizing, or I’ll practically starve until that mojo decides to say “hello” again. In a true effort to keep money in my pocket — you know, because I have to save it for upcoming international trips, new shoes and a possible move — and not eat out for lunch, I’ve been playing around with staples and recreating them into fast, healthy and enjoyable meals. Meet turkey picadillo.
Un Americano once refered to my picadillo as Sloppy Joe. I’m not the biggest purist you’ll ever meet, but when it comes to food I know like the back of my hand, I can easily get defensive. Sloppy Joe? I actaully don’t even know what sloppy Joe is nor do I think I want to know what’s in it. All I know is that it’s a messy sandwich with little to no nutritional value.
But, that sandwich is of no consequence here. I simply brought it up to give you a point of reference for Cuban picadillo. With a tomato sauce base, this simple and herb-heavy meat dish is something you’ll find in every single Cuban home, most always paired with arroz blanco and maduros. It was popularized in the American market after Angelina Jolie’s character in the movie “Pearl,” cooked it. Remember that? She played the Cuban wife of the slain journalist. I think that’s when picadillo became a known dish outside our nucleus.
I talked about picadillo in a post that highlighted a very intense cooking class I hosted back in 2009. It was a smash.
I’m a huge fan of red meat. But, I’m a bigger fan of my health and a balanced diet. And, so while I love a classic picadillo as much as I love oxtail, I’ve been substituting red meat with turkey when I make certain carne dishes. It’s not deemed the most authentic of options and any Latin person would probably question my sanity. We all know turkey is bland and lacks a lot of character. But if you’re looking for a healthier repertoire, it works better than an argument for vegetarian meals.
At least for me. I need some kind of meat. I like to grub and skimping out on meat makes me a ravenous mujer! And, this turkey picadillo, sans a few key ingredients, is cooked the same way as the traditional recipe. It’s a simple switcharoo.
On a day like this, when the morning movement wakes me up 6 am, a rarity and uncommon ocurrence in my single life back in Atlanta, my stomach was singing all kinds of off-key slurs before I’d had my 2nd cup of espresso. I fought the urge to run for the moros y cristianos Mami cooked a few days ago and toiled with having some picadillo instead. Only thing was that rice was the only immediate accompaniment. Much like I do in my own cocina, I scanned Mami’s counter and processed everything she had. Wheat bread, vegetables, fresh tomatoes, jams, crackers, condiments, exotic fruits, chips, chocolate, wheat cereal and a grocery bag filled with groceries for dinner.
A sandwich! It took me about 10 minutes to settle on turning the turkey picadillo into a sandwich that would quickly satisfy me and not require any work beyond stacking. Or leav me feeling heavy.
I toasted some whole wheat and grain bread, used a vintage Smirnoff tin mug to cut out perfect 3″ rounds, — because I’m watching my carb intake — and started organizing my pretty little sandwich. There is absolutely nothing fancy, elaborate or sexy about this. I mean let’s be honest. Es un “sanwish.” It’s just an easy and good quality meal option. It’s not just a burger. It’s not just a sandwich with a meat patty or breast. It’s a beautifully, yet simply designed petite sandwich made with a robust and filling protein. It’s the perfect lunch and even better for serving when entertaining guests that may want a taste of something new and unfamiliar to them, but presented in a very familiar way.
The sandwich. The concept always works. It’s about your ingredients! And creativity.
TURKEY PICADILLO PETITE SANDWICH
- 1 lb. ground turkey chuck
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 8 oz. tomato sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 packet of sazón Goya (without achiote or annatto)
- 1/2 cup dry white cooking wine
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp. white distilled vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/4 tsp. cumin
On medium heat, add ground turkey to large non-stick or stainless steel sauce pan. Using fork, separate turkey. Add tomato sauce and stir. Add oil, green pepper, onion, garlic and all seasonings. Cook on medium high or 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Use spatula to separate beef as it cooks, to not allow clumping of the beef. As turkey browns, add cooking wine and vinegar. Combine all ingredients well. Be sure to break down any clumps. Cover and cook on medium heat for another 15 minutes. If beef appears to become dry while cooking, add cooking wine or a splash of water. Add salt to desired taste, if necessary.
- 24 slices of wheat bread
- 2-3 tomatoes, sliced
- 1/2 head of lettuce, Romaine, Boston or Bibb
Toast bread to desired brownness. Using a 3" round mold, cut out center of bread so that you have 24 rounds total, twelve tops and twelve for bottoms. Scoop 2 tablespoons of turkey picadillo on top of one bread round. Stack with tomato and lettuce. Top with another bread round. Repeat until you have used all of the picadillo.
Makes 12 petite sandwiches.
*Chef's Notes: Some additional toppings can be avocado and caramelized onions. Unlike a traditional American sandwich, this doesn't require a condiment such as mayo or mustard. The juice from the picadillo will saturate the bread and not yield a dry bite.