Picadillo, burritos and food in San Francisco
This post does not contain a recipe on to cook picadillo or burritos. Or does it? Just keep reading!
Ever since I arrived to San Francisco I became obsessed with Picadillo. I have no idea why but it was the first thing I cooked for myself when I first arrived. Back then I was couch surfing, craigslisting, airbnbing, etc. Finding a place to live in this city is f*cking hard (twss*)! My first ever roomate besides my brother was Kiran. She was an awesome host and I was so grateful that she let me stay for almost a month in her place. I wanted to do something nice for her so I offered to cook something from Mexico that was not the typical mexican food found here.
San Francisco is such a diverse and intense city. The restaurant and food scene is very hard to explain, besides saying that its a foodie’s paradise you pretty much have to experience it as a local or with a local. Mexican food in San Francisco is mostly Tex-Mex but its really mostly burritos.
San Franciscans seem to be a race of gringo’s that value a lot practical and effective ways of delivering food to their faces but, they always have to do things better or in some exotic or innovative way. The San Franciscan burrito is a massive cilinder shaped things the size of a new born baby (twss*) that is filled with all sorts of stuff. So far I’ve seen burritos that contain: Rice, beans, ground beef, any other meat available in a taqueria, sour cream, guacamole, kimchi, pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese, sweet and sour pork, grilled veggies, tempura, tuna, deep fried shirmp, fresh veggies, crab and maaaaaany more!!!
The tortilla used for burritos is about 10” in diameter (twss*). It is enough surface to make an extra strength diaper, hence the baby reference earlier. Also there are places like Sushirito that replace the tortilla with a thin layer of rice over seaweed like a regular sushi rol. To the point, the portions are huge, no human should eat that much yet people always end up nom noming their deliciousness wrapped in tinfoil.
Back to the picadillo. I wanted to share a typical home cooked meal from my childhood. Picadillo is actually a cuban recipe but its as mexican to me as mezcal and corruption. That first attempt went fine considering I did it all by memory. I had never cooked it by myself but I used to help in the kitchen and vaguely remembered the ingredients. It was not impressive but a week later I made chilaquiles which she loved because she loves spicy food and everything was back in balance. I had paid my karma with chilaquiles, not with picadillo.
After that I kept trying to cook the perfect picadillo and failed all the times. I mean it was never bad but it wasn’t great. Once I made a thing that looked much more like Chilli (another gringo concoction) that had beans and was so spicy I almost could not eat it… I had lost hope.
Here comes the good part of the story. San Francisco has this awesome culture around consuming local organic produce. There is a really awesome ecosystem of farmers markets that provide high quality organic food to the city. People here are very weary of what they put in their mouths and farmers and food producers are always getting better at their craft. What I mean to say is that culture seeps into the general population and now everyone seems to be more aware of the quality of food. Where do flavors come from and what are the seasonal veggies and spices that work. Menus have the ingredients and the sources of the products used in the restaurant. Every water knows exactly how things are prepared and how fresh things are. All of this sounds super pretentious but its not. It is a culture that every city should have.
I think that this influence makes you value food much more and once you value something you make a craft out of it. So I decided to try it one last time. I got all the ingredients I thought I needed but I ended up using others. It took time and dedication but food should take time and dedication to make. It is basically our energy and a precious commodity, we should respect it much more.
This time around I played with other flavors and spices I wouldn’t dare to use or know how to use before. I used cloves, thyme, cinnamon and spices I rarely even thought about. I used capers I had in the pantry for months and I tried to follow an actual recipe from the internet but as always changing a bunch of things because I hate to follow recipes line by line.
The result was a beautiful mix of delightful organic local food, flavor, aroma, colors and spices much like what San Francisco is to me.
*thats what she said