Food & Drink Magazine

'Ropa Vieja' - 'Old Clothes' Meat on a Whim : Slow Cooked Shredded Cuban Flank Steak in Sofrito Sauce

By Weavethousandflavors

Ropa Vieja-02 
 
There are some days, when no force on earth is going to get me out of my jammies to go grocery shopping and on such days raiding the pantry and the freezer will just have to do.

This afternoon, I open my freezer to find one measly packet of a lb and a half of flank steak. My refrigerator looks like it has been hit by famine and a further rummage through the pantry reveals a similar condition - some black beans and an assortment of other lentils. 

The combination of the 2 ingredients - steak and beans, gets me thinking of South American cuisine and I rush to pull out my Mark Miller cookbook which has my go-to recipe for his fabulous Black Bean Soup but I have yet to figure out what to do with the flank steak. 

I recall a lovely lunch I had several years ago in this hole-in-the wall, mom and pop, Cuban diner the name of which eludes me but it was in Richmond, Virginia. I remember turning into a shopping center and stopping at the only place still open for a late lunch.

And what a lunch it was! I had ordered  Ropa Vieja (for the first time ever) which means 'Old Clothes' referring to the shredded beef. This was served with black beans, rice and fried bananas. I absolutely adored the flavors of the meat with the onions, tomatoes, cumin and bell peppers. 

Fortunately, the nice elderly Cuban couple behind the counter had given me a brief run through the recipe and though mine may not be a 100%  authentic rendition, I am pretty confident I can pull off a pretty decent Ropa Vieja nevertheless. (Undoubtedly, I shall be taking artistic liberties as I progress..smile...)

How wonderful to fix a dish of this at home! It would be perfect for large gatherings and pot lucks but be sure to set aside a couple of hours to let meat slow cook.

Traditionally, the recipe is made with leftover meat but nowadays flank steak is a common place since it has a natural proclivity to being shredded and all. Also instead of just using green bell peppers as is traditional, I am also using red bell peppers because of the nice play of color and added natural sweetness.

There are essentially 2 steps to cooking this dish - first, the meat by itself is stewed to a point where it can be shredded,  blind folded with one hand tied to the back and the meat is then simmered in a traditional tomato based sauce known as sofrito for its ultimate flavor. Let's get started -

 

Ropa Vieja-Ingredients2
Ropa Vieja-Add water to stew

 

 

Add about 5 cups water to completely submerge the meat. On high heat, bring to boil. Using a large spoon, remove the scum as it gather on the surface for approx 10 minutes.

Ropa Vieja-Stewed steak
Ropa Vieja- Cooked flank steak

Reduce the flame to low and allow the meat to cook for 2 hours  until meat is  very tender or to a point to a point where it can be shredded.Remove the meat to a plate.

Ropa Vieja- Shred flank steak
Ropa Vieja- Simmer the stock

Shred the meat with two forks and while you are doing this, allow the beef stock that is in the pan to reduce on high heat to about 2 cups.

Ropa Vieja- Sweat onions
Ropa Vieja- Stew sofrito

In a saute pan, add olive oil and heat on medium heat till just fuming. Add chopped onion, chopped garlic cloves. Saute for approx 10 minutes till the onion sweats. 

Add the tomato sauce, 1 cup of the reduced beef stock with all the peppers and onions, cumin powder, red pepper flakes, salt, sugar and turmeric powder. 

 

On medium-high heat cook the sofrito for 20 minutes.

 

Ropa Vieja- Shredded flank steak
Ropa Vieja- Add flank steak in sofrito

Add the shredded beef and the remaining 1 cup of stock. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings and continue cooking for another 10 minutes on medium high heat with no lid.

Now place a tight fitting lid and reduce the heat to medium. Stew the meat in the sauce for another 20 minutes.

 

Cook's Note - The meat should have a nice thick sauce and should not be swimming in too much liquid. If the sauce is too thin, increase the heat and simmer till some of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce reaches the right consistency - just moist enough to coat the meat nicely. Stir regularly or meat will stick to the bottom of the pan as the water dries up.

 

Ropa Vieja-04
 

 

The flavors are lovely. The combination of the meat with the rich, onion tomato based sauce is heartening. One would think that from the amount of bell peppers used, it would be quite overpowering, but far from it. Not spicy just plain ole' delicious!

We thoroughly enjoyed ours with a side of Mark Miller's Black Bean Soup and steamed rice.

Recipe for

ROPA VIEJA

Serves 4

Preparation time : 15 minutes

Cooking time : 3 hours

Shopping list:

Beef :

1-1/2 lb flank steak

1 small  green bell pepper, quartered and sliced

1 small red bell pepper, quartered and sliced

2 small yellow onions, sliced

4 garlic cloves crushed

1/2 tbs cumin powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Stewed meat and sauce:

1 small onion chopped

4 garlic cloves chopped

1 can, 15 oz tomato sauce

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp cumin powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 tbs olive oil

retained beef stock

Cooking method-  

 

Add about 5 cups water to completely submerge the meat. On high heat, bring to boil. Using a large spoon, remove the scum as it gather on the surface for approx 10 minutes. 

 

Reduce the flame to low and allow the meat to cook for 2 hours  until meat is  very tender or to a point to a point where it can be shredded.  Remove the meat to a plate.

 

 

Shred the meat with two forks and while you are doing this, allow the beef stock that is in the pan to reduce on high heat to about 2 cups. 

 

 

In a saute pan, add olive oil and heat on medium heat till just fuming. Add chopped onion, chopped garlic cloves. Saute for approx 10 minutes till the onion sweats.  

 

Add the tomato sauce, 1 cup of the reduced beef stock with all the peppers and onions, cumin powder, red pepper flakes, salt, sugar and turmeric powder. 

 

On medium-high heat cook the sofrito for 20 minutes. 

 

 

Add the shredded beef and the remaining 1 cup of stock. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings and continue cooking for another 10 minutes on medium high heat with no lid. 

 

Now place a tight fitting lid and reduce the heat to medium. Stew the meat in the sauce for another 20 minutes.

 

Cook's Note - The meat should have a nice thick sauce and should not be swimming in too much liquid. If the sauce is too thin, increase the heat and simmer till some of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce reaches the right consistency. Stir regularly or meat will stick to the bottom of the pan as the water dries up. 

Serve with steamed rice.

 

Enjoy!

 


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