Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ropa Vieja (slow cooker)

(Ed. note - I know I'm a little late and most people already know what they're making for the Super Bowl. But if you're tired of pulled pork and chili, read on...)

suggested of many

I have to admit, I'm sort of a sucker for a dish with a fun name...and Ropa Vieja is just fun. The name means "old clothes" in Spanish, so called because the shredded beef looks like rags of old clothes. This definitely doesn't taste like old clothes, though - it is a delicious beef in a tomato based sauce. Sort of like pulled pork, but a different flavor profile.

Ropa Vieja is one of the national dishes of Cuba, but it actually originated in the Canary Islands. These Spanish islands were a major stopover for ships sailing from Spain to the New World, so it makes sense that some of the cuisine would have made its way over as well.  I first made this dish many, many years ago, when I was given The Frugal Gourmet's "Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother" cookbook. This was before all that terrible stuff came out about sad, that. But the book is still pretty cool, and was a great introduction to all sorts of cuisines that I had never even thought about. I hadn't made it in ages, but decided it was due for an upgrade - and I had a hunch it would translate well to the slow cooker. Good hunch !

Ropa Vieja can be served in all kinds of ways - over rice, beans, or mashed yucca; rolled in tortillas; or just all by its own lovely self. We decided to go with rice and Auntie Jojo's Black Bean Salad, with tortillas on the side...just perfect !

I'll take old clothes like this any day !!
Ropa Vieja

2 lbs beef flank steak, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
oil for pan
1 medium onion, sliced
1 small green and 1 small red bell pepper, sliced
1 jalapeno, minced (seeds removed)
2 cloves minced garlic
8 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

Brown the meat in an oiled pan, and place in the bottom of the slow cooker (you don't want to cook the meat - just get a nice sear on it). Scatter the onion, peppers, jalapeno, and garlic over the meat. Combine the remaining ingredients (except the cilantro) and pour over the meat. Cook on HIGH 4-5 hours or LOW 8-10 hours. Shred the meat right in the crockpot (two large forks work well), mix with the sauce, and garnish with the cilantro before serving.

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