What is Ropa Vieja?
Have you ever eaten old clothes? Well of course not! However, this Cuban dish is named just that. Ropa Vieja (vee-ay-haa) means old clothes in Spanish. Let me tell you, old clothes have never tasted so good!
So legend has it that a poor penniless man couldn’t afford to feed his family. It’s said that he shredded and cooked his old clothes in a pot over a fire and prayed for a miracle. As he prayed the pot bubbled and slowly turned his clothes into a delicious meat stew. Don’t worry we’re not going to be getting out our old clothes but we are going to be using a delicious piece of flank steak to make shredded beef for this recipe. Let’s get cooking!
Don’t forget to save the broth for the soup (sopa de res) that accompanies the ropa vieja. We get two dishes in one. The soup (sopa de res) uses the rich decadent beef broth and then we add fresh vegetables, potatoes, malanga and fideo.
Flank Steak – Remove the membrane from the flank steak or it will not get tender as it cooks. After it has cooked and cooled remove any veins that are running through the meat.
Cooking Method – An Instant Pot or any type of pressure cooker can be used. Depending on the size of the flank steak, cook for 30 minutes on high pressure. Let the steak rest before cutting so as not to release the natural juices from the meat.
Ropa Vieja (Cuban Shredded Beef)
Cook Cuba's national dish named Ropa Vieja. Tender pieces of shredded beef braised in beef broth cooked in a classic sofrito sauce is how to make this traditional Cuban dish.
Braising the Beef
As you get to know me I love cooking in a Dutch oven and this recipe is no exception. However, if you don't have one or you are short on time an Instant Pot or a pressure cooker can be used too. Either of the cookers will have the steak done in 40-45 minutes. For either way first season the steak with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides. Then sear the flank steak in some olive oil on both sides about five minutes per side. If using the Dutch oven sear the meat in the pot and add 2 boxes of beef broth which is about 64 ounces. If you don't have any broth on hand plain water can be used but I like the added depth of flavor from using beef broth. Add a whole bell pepper that has been seeded and the stem removed. Cover and cook in the oven at 325 degrees for 2.5 to 3 hours. When the steak is done let it rest and cool in the broth for about 30 minutes so it stays moist and tender. Remove and discard cooked bell pepper.If using an Instant Pot sear the meat in the Instant Pot using the Saute function. After sauteeing on both sides add the beef broth and bell pepper. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook for 20 minutes. When it's done allow it to natural release the pressure.
While the steak is resting chop an onion and a bell pepper. Smash or grate 15-20 cloves of garlic. Puree the cherry tomatoes.
Remove steak to a cutting board and reserve 1 cup of broth for the Ropa Vieja and save the rest for the soup which I will show you how to make next. In a saute pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat and start cooking the peppers and onions. After they are tender add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste. Next add 12 ounces of pureed cherry tomatoes and continue cooking. Season with salt and pepper.
While the sauce is forming cut the flank steak into 1 1/2 inch pieces and as shredding the meat remove any veins that you might find.
Add the meat to the sauce. Add in the cup of reserved broth Add salt to taste. Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro. Cover and continue to cook on low for another 10 to 20 minutes. Let the meat reabsorb all of the flavors of the sauce we just made. Serve over a bed of white rice with maduros and a side of avocado salad and enjoy!