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  • Writer's pictureCarlos Sarmiento

Beef picadillo & patatas bravas - Classic dishes from Cuba & Spain, tapas style.

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

During one of those hectic nights when trying to figure out what to make for dinner and there are only a few items available at home, improvising often yields surprising results. You are all in for a palatable treat.

Picadillo (pronounced: peek-a-dee-yo) is a traditional Latin American and Caribbean dish most commonly made of seasoned-spiced ground beef.

Many countries have their own style of picadillo and the ingredients used differ slightly to season this dish. My mother’s side of the family come from Cuba, so naturally, this new recipe will have a basic Cuban base but with a European twist (traditionally, picadillo is served with white rice and black beans).

(Photo: Daniel Seßler)

Patatas bravas or papas bravas, which quite literally means fierce potatoes, is a native dish from Spain that some say dates as far as the mid 1500’s. This piquant dish is quite the traditional Spanish bar fare where tapas or appetizers, such as this one, are prominently featured.

(Photo: Isak Gundrosen)

In keeping tradition of melding flavors and cuisines, uniting these two savory dishes into one meal makes for quite an off-the-beaten-path delectable experience. I took some creative license on how these dishes are made to give them my own spin.

The main ingredients that are the basic staples to make these dishes are: garlic and onions.

For the picadillo, I have added some fines herbes or fine herbs (dried parsely, chives, tarragon and chervil), traditionally used in French cuisine. These herbs will give an earthy, yet delicate flavor to the beef which nicely counterbalance with the bravas sauce (an aioli type of sauce) for the potatoes, where paprika will bring the quintessential heat to this traditional tapas dish.

(Photo: Angel Fernandez Alonso)

Menu: Beef picadillo with patatas brava

Wine: 2018 Alma Mora Blend (Finca Las Moras, Argentina)

This menu serves 4

Let’s get cooking!



  • 1 lb of lean ground beef

  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped in small pieces

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon of fines herbes (can be substituted with a combination of dried parsley and tarragon).

  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano

  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt/pepper to taste

  • 1/4 cup of red wine diluted with 1/4 cup of water


  • 1 small of bag of small yellow potatoes

  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt/pepper to taste

Brava sauce:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons of paprika

  • 3 tablespoons of port wine (can be substituted with dry sherry)

  • 1/2 cup of mayonnaise

  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgins olive oil



Heat olive oil on a skillet on medium heat. Cook onions for about 5 minutes. Add beef and cook through for about 15 minutes or until brown.

Add garlic and cook through for an additional 5 minutes. Add tomato, herbs, oregano and wine/water solution. Cook on low heat until liquid evaporates. Add salt/pepper to taste.


In a deep pot, cook yellow potatoes in boiling water until potatoes are soft when pierced with a knife. Drain and transfer potatoes to a plate and cook.

Once potatoes are cooked, cut them in thick rounds. Pan fry them in the extra virgin olive oil until golden brown (you might need to cook them in batches). Transfer potatoes to a paper-toweled plate to drain excess oil and salt/pepper to taste.

Brava sauce:

In a small frying pan on medium heat, sauté onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil until translucent. Add paprika and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool slightly.

Transfer onion-garlic mixture to a blender, add mayonnaise and port wine. Blend until smooth and cool in fridge until ready to serve.

Serve it up!

On each individual plate, spoon a good portion of the picadillo to the center of the dish. Arrange potatoes around the beef and dot each potato with the brava sauce. Garnish with a few small parsley leaves. Serve.

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

Wine pairing

For a seasoned dish like this, a Sangria would go nicely with it, but a chilled young red wine blend goes perfectly as well.

As you can see, I am pairing this dish with a 2018 Alma Mora (Finca Las Moras) Blend Red Wine from Argentina.

(Available online at various retailers and at fine grocery stores and liquor stores $9-12).

This smooth, yet robust blend wine is comprised of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot.

It is a deep red colored wine with violet hues, featuring aromas of fresh fruits like plums and blackberries, green pepper and a subtle touch of vanilla and chocolate.

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

Buen provecho! Salud!


(Photo: Sonia Nadales)

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