Ropa Vieja, Cuban Shredded Beef
Ropa Vieja literally means old clothes, as it’s a Cuban Shredded Beef dish. In Spanish, it sounds exotic. If I were to say, let’s make some old clothes in English, it would not sound so appealing, would it?
I got this idea and recipe for ropa vieja from the butcher at my local grocery store. I trust his word because he was an executive chef at a very ritzy hotel. I feel like I have a true expert go to. He’s the one that told me it had to be flank steak, not something I would usually braise.
Ropa Vieja, Cuban Shredded Beef, is typically made with flank or skirt steak.
Flank steak is the cut of meat most used for Ropa Vieja. It’s tough and stringy and requires long, slow cooking to get that delicious shredded meat. This slow cooking will build a complex flavor profile, while tenderizing at the same time.
The main flavors for the Ropa Vieja come from oregano, paprika, cumin, tomatoes, olives and peppers, very similar in flavors to picadillo, another Cuban dish I made here.
Peppers for Ropa Vieja
The typical peppers for ropa vieja is green bell pepper. Not having them on hand I substituted hatch chili peppers, which made the dish too hot.
Normally, I would use the poblano peppers, as I did in the picadillo. Typically ropa vieja is made with bell peppers and no heat, but I like poblanos and decided to use both.
One of of the times I didn’t have fresh peppers on hand, but I did have a jar of hatch chili peppers, which added an abundance of heat.
A reader wrote me to know that this dish is not supposed to be hot. I realize I took liberties with the dish and I promise to make this more authentically the next time.
Ropa Viejo, Cuban Shredded Beef, is the kind of dish to make in large quantities.
If you can, get a large piece of meat and make enough to freeze. This is the kind of dish that tastes better the next day, and freezes well for very quick meals.
Make sure the meat is fully cooled before freezing. I used a food saver to freeze. The food saver compresses out the air, vacuum seals, and prevents freezer burn. This is the first thing we bought together as a married couple eighteen years ago and we’re on our second saver.
Ropa Vieja is Usually Served on Rice
I wasn’t sure how I wanted to serve Ropa Vieja so I asked people on instagram. Rice or Tortillas?
What I didn’t realize is that Cuban do not eat tortillas. This doesn’t mean you can’t do that; just know that’s not the authentic way this dish is served.
I used fresh oregano out of my garden with a squeeze of lime. The meat is so flavorful, so enjoy it just as is without adding any extra toppings, but perhaps herbs and little extra chopped onion.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 flank steak
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 16- ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 6 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 tablespoons vinegar wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2 poblano peppers seeded, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper diced (optional)
- 1 large onion chopped
- 10 spanish olives
- Season flank steak with salt and pepper.
- Brown flank steak five minutes on each side on medium high heat. Remove from pot.
- You can brown the flank steak in separate pan and then remove to a slow cooker.
- If making in crock pot, add onions, peppers, 1 can diced tomato.
- Add in flank steak. (see notes for cooking in a dutch oven)
- Add about 1 cup beef broth or water, or enough liquid to just cover the flank steak.
- Add vinegar.
- In slow cooker: cook for six on high, 10 hours on low.
- If using dutch oven on top of stove, cook on very low for 4 hours. You can also put dutch oven inside oven at 300 degrees f. Make sure you have enough liquid and check frequently about every 30 minutes.
- In last hour, add olives, and second can of tomatoes.
- Once done, use a fork to shred beef.
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