Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ropa Vieja

Maybe it's all the news about revolution in Egypt and Libya and Wisconsin, but lately I have been craving Cuban food.  There's something paradoxical about Cuban food.  It is definitely latin and comes from the balmy tropical Carribean, but it is also hearty and comforting, like a big down comforter, the last thing you would think you would want in the tropics.  But it is all absolutely cravable.

In the last few days the temperature has dropped from mid 70's to mid 40's and I was feeling the need for some comfort food.  Then Emma decided to make a surprise visit from DC, so last night we made her favorite latin dish: Ropa Vieja, a mildly spicy latin "beef stew".  Eating Ropa Vieja is like crawling into a big, safe, cozy, warm cocoon of happiness.  No really, it's EXACTLY like that.

This is the kind of food your grandmother would have simmering on the back burner all day long.  The name Ropa Vieja literally translates to "old clothes", which is what the dish looks like.  This is a classic Cuban dish and takes 3-4 hours to complete, so get an early start!  However, it will fill your house with the most delicious aromas you can imagine.  Perfect for a blustery day.

Traditionally Ropa Vieja is served on plain white rice, and with Cuban bread.  We can't usually find good cuban bread here, so I substituted the Mexican bolillos they sell at our local grocery store (we have a large hispanic population in my neighborhood, so the latin section is always good).

Ropa Vieja
serves 8-12

4 lbs beef skirt steak or flank steak, or fajita meat (not too lean)
2 large onions,peeled and coarsely chunked
2 large Carrots, chunked
3 large ribs celery broken in half
2 fresh bay leaves (dried work too)
2 Tsp salt

2 large green bell peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 large onion chopped
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 28oz. can tomatoes (petit dice or crushed)
1 cup dry red wine

In a large stock pot, place the beef, 2 large onions, carrots, celery, salt and bay leaves.  Cover with enough water to submerge everythng with about 2 inches of water.  Place over high heat, UNCOVERED, until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to a constant simmer and cook beef 3-4 hours, uncovered.  It is cooked uncovered so the broth will reduce.

Strain broth into a large bowl and reserve.  Separate meat from vegetables, and discard vegetables. Allow beef to cool, then shred with two forks.

In a large skillet heat olive oil.  Add bell peppers, garlic, 1 large onion and jalapeno peppers and saute for 10 minutes until onions begin to soften.  Add salt, cumin, oregano, tomatoes and red wine and simmer for 20 minutes until mixture is thickened and liquid is reduced to the consistency of a very thick marinara sauce.  Add 3 cups of reserved beef broth and the shredded beef.  Cook to heat through and serve over white rice with Cuban bread.


  1. I need to crawl into one of those right now (a big, safe, cozy, warm cocoon of happiness) so I am going to cook this very soon!

  2. That definitely sounds like an excellent plan Amateur Cook! I hope it brings you loads of comfort!
    Mama Ozzy

  3. Que sabroso! Ropa Vieja with black beans and rice and tostones. A Cuban meal fit for a king!