Cuban Comfort Food: Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja can always make you feel better. Especially if you scoop it straight from the pot with a crisp soda cracker or crusty piece of Cuban bread while no one is looking. It’s warm and meaty and you can sop it up with bread, breast which places it firmly in the Comfort Food category. Just like her Arroz con Pollo, thumb my mom’s Ropa Vieja is the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s still the dish she makes for my brother when he’s home, and the dish for which I’ll forever steal the leftovers.
Ropa Vieja literally translates out to “Old Clothes”. Doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? But nothing is better than shredded flank steak stewed with peppers, garlic, tomato, tons of onions and ladled over white rice. Some people add all kinds of spices and seasonings, but I like to err on the side of simplicity. The result is bold, tangy, beefy and super delicious.
Ropa Vieja is perfect for a homey Sunday Supper during the Fall or Winter. But be warned that post-meal naps are pretty much required.
Ropa Vieja: Shredded Beef Stewed with Peppers, Onions and Tomato
To save time, you can prep the vegetables and cook and shred the beef up to 2 days before you make the Ropa Vieja.
Also, this is one of those meals where the leftovers taste better and better!
2 lbs. Flank steak, cubed
4 medium yellow onions (1 halved, 3 thinly sliced)
3 bay leaves
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. can finely diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Fire-Roasted)
1 tbsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp. ketchup
juice of 1 lime
Place the beef, halved onion and a bay leaf in a large pot and cover with water. Cook over high heat until the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.
Remove the beef cubes to a bowl with a slotted spoon and let cool to the touch. (Save the beef water and use as a base for soups, or wherever you’d use beef stock.) Use your hands to “shred” the beef. You want to pull the pieces apart until it looks like pulled pork. Set aside.
Set a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once it’s hot, add the onions and bell peppers. Sautee for 7 – 10 minutes, or until they begin to get very soft. Add the garlic, beef, tomatoes, ketchup, salt and 2 bay leaves and let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and salt to taste.
Serve over white rice.
Makes 6 – 8 servings.