Picadillo is the consummate Costa Rican comfort food and is popular throughout all of Latin America. It’s similar to a potato hash, as all the ingredients are chopped into small pieces. The name comes from the Spanish word picar, which means “to chop.” Costa Rican versions also include the names of the main vegetables involved such as picadillo de ayote (squash), and picadillo de palmito (hearts of palm).
Picadillo de chayote is an authentic and easy Costa Rican family dish, whether you enjoy it as a filling for tortillas or pair it with soup and rice to make a hearty meal.
1 large chayote squash, peeled, pitted, and diced
3 ears corn, kernels removed, or 1⁄2 pound frozen sweet corn kernels
3 sweet red or yellow peppers, seeded and diced
1⁄2 sweet onion (like Vidalia), minced
4 teaspoons cilantro
4 teaspoons chopped culantro coyote
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
1 teaspoon achiote paste* Salt and pepper (optional)
In a large sauté pan or pot, combine all ingredients together, including salt and pepper to taste, if using; cook over medium heat until there is about a 1⁄4 cup of “gravy” at the bottom of the pan, about 15-20 minutes.
*Achiote paste is a cooking condiment used to add red color and a mild chili flavor to dishes. You can find it in a Mexican or Latin market or at an online retailer. It is often sold as a spice cake and is a mix of achiote and several other spices. If you can’t find it, use mild chili powder with a squeeze of lime instead, or paprika for color.
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