Left: Miriam Armendariz Piccolo with her mother, Genoveva. Right: the finished picadillo. Miriam Armendariz Piccolo/Collage by NPR hide caption
All Things We’re Cooking is a series featuring family recipes from you, our readers and listeners, and the special stories behind them. We’ll continue to share more of your kitchen gems throughout the holidays.
Growing up, Miriam Armendariz Piccolo helped her mom in the kitchen, especially when it came time to make picadillo, Piccolo’s favorite dish.
Piccolo says the spices and flavors of this dish — a combination of ground beef, potatoes and chile sauce — taste like home to her.
As with many mother-daughter relationships, Piccolo and her mom did not always agree. Clashes usually resulted from cultural differences — the conservative culture in Mexico, where the family emigrated from, and the more progressive culture in their new home of Oregon, she said.
But regardless of any disagreements, Piccolo knew that when her mom made picadillo, she was making it for her, because her brother and dad weren’t fans. Coming home from school to this meal meant that her mom had been thinking about her and that they would share the meal together.
“She was thinking about me some way, somehow that day,” Piccolo said. “It could have been because she was loving me or maybe angry at me, or maybe I had disappointed her, but I was on her mind in some way, and she wanted to feed me and feed me good that day.”
As much as Piccolo loves picadillo, she hadn’t made it on her own until recently.
“I honestly didn’t really know how to make it because I never got the recipe from my mom,” says Piccolo, who now lives in Little Rock, Ark. “My mom was the one that would say, ‘a pinch of this and add some chiles.’ And she was so vague with it that I was like, I don’t know what that means.”
Piccolo’s job back then was more about dicing vegetables than measuring ingredients. So, when she came across a video of picadillo on TikTok, she decided to attempt to make it herself. But this time she would have to rely on the help of her aunts. Piccolo’s mother died in 2021.
The aunts gave her some tips and she got to work. It wasn’t so much about how the dish tasted in the end, Piccolo said. “I wanted to show my aunts that I’m still carrying my mom, that I still got her memories and her skills and I’m bringing them with me,” she said.
Piccolo’s picadillo turned out to be delicious. She now plans to make it for family, friends and herself and urges others to try the recipe.
“This is going to be a good, hearty dish,” Piccolo said. “Serve it with a squeeze of lemon, good, hearty corn tortillas. And it will fill you up knowing that it really was made with love.”
Recipe submitted by Miriam Armendariz Piccolo
Little Rock, Ark.
Cook the beef and break it up until its 90% cooked. Add peeled and chopped potato and cook for about 5 minutes.
In the meantime, boil the tomato and chiles and blend with the onion, garlic, cumin, oregano and cloves so they make a watery puree. Add the chile sauce to the beef and potatoes, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook until the potatoes are fork tender.
Serve with white Mexi-rice, corn tortillas and a squeeze of lime.
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