When you think of Caribbean cuisine most people think of seafood and bean dishes, not necessarily beef recipes, but especially in Cuba, beef has been a traditional staple of the populace since before the 20th century. In Cuba these days however regular citizens can’t afford beef.
A pound of ground beef costs over $20 dollars or the equivalent in Cuban pesos. Taking into consideration that the average Cuban makes less than $30 per month, beef just is not an option for most Cubans unless they work in a dollar restaurant or one of the tourist hotels.
Cuban beef recipes include the ever popular “picadillo” (pronounced pick-a-dee-yo) which is basically seasoned ground beef. You need to make the seasoning, or “sofrito” first which consists of fried onions, a little oil, and some garlic.
Let the sofrito cool and then add it to one pound of 80% lean ground meat. The ground meat is then mixed with about half a cup of tomato paste or tomato sauce (paste is better).
The mixture is then cooked on a skillet for half an hour. Add chopped or sliced green pitted olives at the end and it is ready to serve over plain white rice and accompanied by fried plantains and black bean soup.
Another one of the great tasting Cuban beef recipes is beef empanadas, which are pastries filled with picadillo. These meat filled treats are deep fried until crispy and perfect.
Most good Cuban restaurants will also offer beef, ham, chicken, or bacalao (dried smoked cod) croquetas (croquettes). Croquetas are made with finely ground meat or fish filling and spices, then rolled and formed into little “finger” shapes, then rolled in egg yolk and finally into bread crumbs.
Once they are ready the croquetas are deep fried until golden brown and crispy. Both croquetas and empanadas are really tapas, or appetizers but can also serve as a main dish when accompanied by traditional fried green plantains and some form of rice dish, or black beans.
Cuban beef recipes from the island include the famous “ropa vieja”, which literally translates as “old clothes”. This is a dish of shredded skirt steak sautéed in a sauce of red bell peppers, onions and tomato sauce. All of these dishes begin with the traditional “sofrito” and then the meat is mixed in and cooked.
Most Cuban recipes go better with plain white rice and a black bean soup, or “potaje” (pronounced po-ta-heh). Add some fried sliced sweet or green plantains and you have a great traditional Cuban dish right at home.
Cuban beef recipes go well with mixed rum drinks such as rum and coke with a slice of lime, also known as a “Cuba Libre” (free Cuba) or the favorite drink of Ernest Hemingway, the Mojito (pronounced mo-hee-to) which is white rum, lime juice, soda, simple syrup, and crushed mint.
If you really want the entire experience you need to put on some spicy Salsa dance music and invite some friends over for a party. They will love the tropical drinks and the delicious Cuban food that you serve.