I had my first taste of Cuban food many years ago in Miami Beach and since then routinely crave it. I stop at Porto's Bakery when we are in Los Angeles and Guantemmerra when we are in NYC but never before now have I attempted to make it at home...and I'm not sure why.
Ropa Vieja literally translates to old clothes, and is a dish that slow cooks beef in a tomato based sauce, until tender and falling apart and then shreds the meat into rags. This dish can be eaten on it's own though it's delicious served with black beans and rice.
Scouring the internet for that perfect recipe I turned up the one below from The Daring Gourmet, who seemed to do a lot of research, which means I didn't have to. I followed the recipe almost exactly and was pleased with the results. No more waiting until we travel for a taste of Cuban food with this recipe available.
Cuban Ropa Vieja
(Adapted from The Daring Gourmet)
- 2 pounds chuck (ask your butcher to cut it taller than wider so you get long strands of beef along the grain)
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 of each large green, red and yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 16 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large carrot, cut in half
- 1 large stalk celery, cut in half
- 1 cup green olives, rinsed and sliced
- ½ cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Pat the beef dry and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Once very hot add the beef and brown generously on all sides. Transfer the beef to a plate. (Do not discard the drippings and blackened bits in the pot, they are key to the flavor.)
- Add the sliced vegetables to the pot and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until caramelized. Add the garlic and spices and cook for another minute. Add the white wine and bring it to a rapid boil, deglazing the bottom of the pan (scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan).
- Add the broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaves. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Return the roast to the pot along with the pieces of carrots and celery. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 3-4 hours or until the beef is fork tender and falls apart easily. Discard the celery, carrots and bay leaves.
- Transfer the beef to a plate and shred it.
- Stir in the olives, roasted red peppers, and capers. Simmer uncovered to thicken the sauce for 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.