If you were to go in search of down-home cooking at a Tex-Mex restaurant, steak picado should top the list. You might see it presented as bistec picado (chopped beefsteak) and you might well be more than satisfied with the chicken version. In fact, it was chicken that brought one middle-of-nowhere Texas joint national recognition when now-retired broadcaster John Madden declared their picado version a personal favorite during his reign as a sportscaster. With his repeated praise, Van Horn – a speck of a town along a lonely stretch of Interstate to El Paso – became a popular tourist stop for travelers going in search of Mexican food.
This dish is also popular in Guatemala and Cuba. If you want to eat on the cheap in Panama, you’d also want to find a place serving picado. It’s interesting, though, to see steak and chicken picado among the higher-priced items on Mexican menus. Differences among countries are slight. In the Mexican version, fresh tomatoes are used while elsewhere tomato sauces and pastes may be part of the base. Many may think this is just another version of carne guisada. It’s not, however, as that particular stew typically doesn’t incorporate a tomato base (although, of course, it can). Around the world, you’ll find such similarities in recipes.
In restaurants, steak picado may very well be grill or skillet prepared, piled high with onions and bell peppers, then smothered in tomato sauce. At home, it’s the perfect winter comfort food for a family or a crowd. Just add all the ingredients in a crockpot and a few hours later, everyone will be raving over this classic. For this recipe, I added orange, yellow, and red bells for color, but green bells will work just as well. Chili powder, cumin and dried cilantro are a traditional Tex-Mex combo that you simply can’t beat for flavor. Use any type of steak; even tough cuts with an overnight marinade will turn into melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Finally, here’s where steak picado gets even better. After you’ve enjoyed it paired with rice and/or beans, the leftovers go their separate ways. Strain out the meat and veggies and create burritos for the freezer; they’ll bake up nicely later. The remaining liquid becomes a flavorful stock to be frozen for your next pot of beans. A unique and tasty twist for black or pinto beans when you’re cooking from scratch – how’s that for enjoying leftovers?
Yields 4 servings
1 pound beef steak of choice (tenderloin, round)
4-5 fresh tomatoes (or one large can diced)
4 cups water
1 large onion
1 green bell pepper (or other color)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground chile de arbol (or other dried pepper) – optional
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
Trim beef steaks and cut in chunks about 1-1/2 inches. Brown in skillet and drain on paper towel.
Cut up fresh tomatoes into medium sized bites (skip for canned).
Chop onion into medium size chunks.
Cut bell pepper in smaller chunks.
Slice jalapeno into rings.
Add all of the above in a crockpot or large stewpot on stove.
Stir in seasonings.
Cover and cook for about 4-5 hours (stove method or crockpot on high).
This recipe is easily doubled or tripled for larger gatherings.
Serve with a side of rice and/or beans.
For leftovers: strain out the veggies and meats and wrap in burrito size tortillas. These can freeze and later be baked or microwaved. Reserve sauce as an add-in for black or pinto beans. It can also be used to flavor plain rice.