Fabulous Recipe: Picadillo In A Lettuce Cup

Fabulous Recipe: Picadillo In A Lettuce Cup

In assembling recipes for this Cuban extravaganza, I thought I’d like to have some kind of empanada, the little pastry turnover or patty found throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. They seemed labor-intensive, however, and a bit heavy. So we saved the stuffing and threw out the turkey. We borrowed a Vietnamese custom and placed the ground-beef mixture, called picadllo, in cups made of iceberg lettuce, and topped them with heirloom-tomato salsa to form a exquisite bite-size packages. Who wants to get weighed down by a lot of heavy friend dough anyway?) 

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 medium yellow onions, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • 4 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large heads of iceberg lettuce
  • Tomato salsa

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add the beef and sauté, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, until it’s evenly browned with no lumps. Add the onions and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until they are soft. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir in the olives, raisins, capers, vinegar, and tomato sauce. Season with the salt and pepper.  Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.

3. Break off the outside leaves of the lettuce heads and carefully pull out the inner curled leaves to form cups. Place them on a a serving platter and fill each of them with about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Top each mound of meat with a teaspoon of tomato salsa. 

NOTE: Leftover outside leaves of the lettuce can be reserved to make a salad. The leftover meat mixture can be topped with potatoes or sweet potatoes to make a shepherd’s pie, or combined with tomato sauce to make a ragu for pasta.  

-Colin Cowie

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