Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Classic Cuban Bistec de Palomilla

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Classic Cuban food is really unsophisticated and simple.  It is spicy but by that I do not mean it's hot. Onions, green peppers, and garlic are the key ingredients in a traditional Cuban sofrito, sometimes with the addition of tomato paste, parsley or lime.

Bistec de Palomilla is one of the most traditional Cuban recipes, right up there with black beans and roast pork.  It is found in every Cuban restaurant you will ever visit.   Usually when I'm not sure about the caliber of the food in a new Cuban restaurant, this is what I order and I'm seldom wrong.  If the palomilla is not good, the rest will be inedible!

If you live anywhere outside Miami, you will find the steaks at your local supermarket labeled as top sirloin steaks. They must be very thin, no more than a quarter inch thick.  Pound them a little to get to the desired thickness,  Do not get top round steaks, they will be tough.

In Miami you will find palomilla steaks, labeled as such,  that are fairly sized and you can figure on one per person.  In the rest of the country, where you buy top sirloin steaks, they will be smaller so figure accordingly.

Another way of eating palomilla, and you must be a real Cuban for this, is to top the steaks with the raw onions and parsley instead of sauteeing them at the end.  I love it like this but certainly not if I'm planning on talking to or kissing anyone for the rest of the day.

Traditionally, palomilla is eaten with white rice and fried bananas.  Oh, and if you are a real Cuban, you will squeeze some lemon or lime juice on top before eating.  Just saying....

This is not traditional, just a bit of creativity...but soo good!

1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
6 thin-sliced top sirloin steaks
4 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
2 garlic cloves
2 TB finely chopped parsley
salt and ground black pepper


Marinade the steaks in half the chopped onion and 2 TB lime or lemon juice for an hour or two.

Mince the parsley and combine in a cup with the other half of the chopped onions.  This is one of the secrets of a good palomilla!

Heat 2 TBs olive oil and 1 TB of butter over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Mash the 2 cloves of garlic and saute in the oil for about a minute.  Remove from the oil and discard.  
Place two to three pieces of the steaks in the pan and saute on medium high for 1 minute on each side. Repeat again until all the steaks have been cooked. The steaks should be very thinly cut, so cooking time should only be a few minutes. They should end up slightly browned on the outside and medium rare inside.  If you like them medium, cook them an extra minute but not more, or you will end up with a tough palomilla and that's a no no.
Place the steaks on a paper towel covered plate and keep them warm.
Add the extra TB of oil to the pan as well as the onions from the marinade and the onion parsley combination,  2 TB lime or lemon juice and sautee for a couple of minutes. Pour over the steaks, add salt and pepper to taste and extra parsley for garnish if desired.    Serve with white rice and a lemon or lime wedge on the side.Yum!


  1. A day without talking or kissing...hmm.

  2. Okay, this looks fabulous! I long for another Lindaraxa made dinner, with this on the menu. Please, dear kitty?

  3. Columnist

    I meant bummer!


    You're on!

    Blue and the Celt requested Cuban for their meal chez Lindaraxa. They liked it so much they cleaned me out of leftovers. Sent them home with doggie bags....

  4. The hardest part of this is trying to get the butcher to cut the sirloin correctly, I never have any luck outside of South Florida!!


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