Vaca Frita is one of my absolute favorite Cuban meals. It’s simple, but super flavorful and everyone usually loves it. Especially my college roommate. She really loved it. Vaca Frita literally translates to “Fried Cow”. Sounds appetizing, no? Well, no. But I promise you, it is mouth-watering, addictive and delicious.
So, what exactly is this fried cow? It’s flank steak, chopped into squares and boiled with an onion and a bay leaf until tender, then shredded and sauteed with onions, lime juice and orange juice. Traditionally, the beef is sauteed in a skillet with lots of oil until crisp and brown. This method is a little greasy for me, so I saute everything in a pan, then spread it onto a cookie sheet and pop it under the broiler to get the same browned and crispy results.
It’s a tangy, beefy meal that’s great on rice, with salads and definitely in sandwiches! As a bonus, you get some deeply flavorful stock for soups. If you’re looking for a unique and tropical way to prepare flank steak, this dish is for you.
1.5 lbs. Flank Steak, cubed
3.5 cups of water
1 tbsp. salt
1 bay leaf
2 medium-sized yellow onions, one halved, one chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
juice of 1 large orange
juice of 1 large lime (or 2 small limes)
salt to taste
Place the steak, water, 2 onion halves, bay leaf and salt in a medum-sized pot and set over medium-high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer the steak for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until tender. (I like to do this in the morning or on the weekend and finish up at dinnertime.)
Remove the steak with a slotted spoon and let cool to room temperature. (Run the remaining ilquid through a fine mesh sieve and use as a base for soups, or freeze.) Use 2 forks or your hands to pull the steak apart until it resembles pulled pork. Mix the orange and lime juice together in a small bowl or measuring cup.
Preheat your oven’s broiler. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and sautee until soft and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the shredded steak and half of orange/lime juice.
Saute for 2 – 3 minutes, then taste and add more orange/lime juice and salt to taste. I usually end up using all or most of the juice. This depends on the size of your citrus and how juicy it is.
Spread the contents of the skillet onto a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until the beef and onions crisp and brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and serve with rice, salad, potatoes or in a sandwich with some Gruyere cheese.
Makes 4 servings.