Monday, January 24, 2011

Ropa Vieja

I just love wrapping delicious meats in a tortilla, topping it with sour cream and cilantro and scarfing it down with gusto. Enter Ropa Vieja. This is a Cuban dish that literally means "Old Clothes" because the shredded beef is said to resemble rags. It certainly doesn't taste like rags. There is a depth of flavor from the low, slow cooking time. The onions will basically melt in your mouth and the shredded meat is tender and I love cumin and this version is heavy with the earthy spice. Bob inspired me to make this dish after he said that he had it recently and it was so good. I couldn't stop thinking about making some for myself (and Mark) and whenever that happens I know to just go with it. Also, there is something incredibly gratifying about taking a very cheap cut of beef and turning it into something so delicious. You could easily serve this to guests and no one would guess that you are such a bargain shopper.
Ropa Vieja (serves 4)
1 lb. chuck steak
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. cumin (divided)
pinch cayenne pepper
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
pinch red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
salt and pepper
olive oil

Notice that this is a relativly small steak, but it will end up feeding 4. There is some marbling which will keep the meat flavorful during the slow cooking.
1. Make a flour mixture that you will use to lightly coat the steak so that it will get beautifully browned. Combine flour, 1 tsp. cumin, pinch of cayenne, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper on a plate and mix it around so that it is evenly distributed.
2. Lay the steak in the flour mixture and flip it on each side so that it is lightly coated. Shake of any excess flour.
3. Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet or frying pan on high heat until very hot. Sear the meat in the hot oil for 4 minutes on each side until nice and brown. Remove the meat from the oil and set aside on a plate.
4. Chop onion and garlic. Turn down the heat to medium and add the veggies, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, 2 bay leaves, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
5. Allow to cook for 4-5 minutes until the begin to soften and get some color. Then add the red wine and tomato sauce. Allow them to cook together for 4-5 more minutes while the flavors marry.
6. From here you can dump everything into a crock pot with the steak and let it simmer on low for 3-4 hours until everything is tender and the meat is falling apart. Then remove the meat so that you can fork it apart. You could also leave everything in your pot, covered and simmer it on the lowest heat for the same time or put the pot, covered into a 325 degree oven. I like the crock pot because it is a low, consistent heat, and I don't have to be around while it is on.
7. Forking the meat is easiest to do on a cutting board with two forks. If you run into a fat, you can discard it. Otherwise, just use the two forks to separate the meat into strands and bite sized pieces.
8. Return the meat to the sauce and then you are ready to serve. If you are keeping it in the crock pot, which I do, just turn it down to the lowest setting (that's "Warm" on mine).
Set out your tortillas, chopped cilantro, and sour cream. You could also use a Monterrey Jack cheese, but I like this without cheese (and this is basically the ONLY thing I would say that about).
I like to toast my tortillas on a hot griddle for a minute on each side so that they are even more delicious.
Assemble and enjoy!


  1. I had a ropa bennie at brunch yesterday. Top your leftovers with poached eggs (and guava hollandaise) on brioche instead of an English muffin. Divine.

  2. um, what time are you serving?

  3. Ropa Vieja Eggs Benedict? Yes please. I served these to a bunch of hungry friends so no leftovers. I will remake immediatly with the sole intention of putting a poached egg on it.