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Argentinian Tango and Cuban Habanera

Cuban Hash Picadillo 1

Cuban Hash Picadillo 3

By Tim Hazell

Little road that time erased,

that one day saw us walk by together,

I have come for the last time,

I have come to tell you my woe.

—Tango lyrics “Caminito”

Argentinian tango lyrics are often profound, the result of collaborations. One such example is the style of the Boedo group of Argentine poets. A famous example of the genre, the song “Organito de la Tarde,” written in 1923 by José González Castillo, is based on the theme of an old man and the languid music of his organito (barrel organ). The wooden leg of a companion accompanies the rhythms of the tango.

At the slow pace of a poor old man

Giving turns to the crank

The little organ at twilight

Fills the suburb with notes

A lame man marches behind

As his wooden leg

Marks the beat of the tango…

The Cuban dance style known as habanera—dubbed “tango Americano”—combined African and Haitian trends in rhythm and movement. It became a sensation in countries like Spain and the US. The term is synonymous with “gusto,” and it found extroverted release in the island’s cuisines as well.

These recipes for picadillo (Cuban hash) and mojo sauce evoke a rich ethnic panorama with an Afro-Cuban pulse!

Picadillo a la Habanera (Cuban Hash)

1 lb ground lean pork or beef

1/4 lb ground ham

3 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp tomato sauce

1 tsp white vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 large potato, peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 cup coarsely chopped olives

4 eggs, fried sunny side up

Cooked White Rice

Add olive oil to a large frying pan, and thoroughly cook all the meat except the ham. Add the ham, onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook the mixture until the onions are translucent. Add the ground spices, tomato sauce, and vinegar. Mix very well over medium heat until bubbling.

In another pan, fry the potato cubes until brown. Stir in the olives. Layer on top of the rice and meat mixture. Crown with the eggs.

Serve piping hot with mojo sauce or any salsa of choice.

Mojo Sauce

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

10 large cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced

1/4 cup onion, minced

1/4 cup coriander, finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground oregano

2 tsp ground cumin

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1 cup water

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add prepared garlic and onion and cook, stirring constantly 2–3 minutes until pale golden brown. Stir in the citrus juices, water, and all the dry ingredients except coriander.

Bring the sauce mixture to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature.

Stir the coriander into the cooled sauce mixture. Serve in a bowl alongside the main dishes as an accompaniment.


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