Introduction: Ropa Vieja

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Ropa vieja is the most amazing Cuban comfort food. Whenever I go to a Cuban restaurant, I always order the ropa vieja or the vaca frita. Both dishes are spectacular in every way.

Ropa vieja is a long-simmered shredded beef and tomato and other delicious things sort of dish - it's almost like a stew! You can eat it alone, over rice, as a sandwich or in a tortilla. 

Step 1: Ingredients:

  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 pounds flank steak, sliced into 1-2 inch wide strips
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup canned pimiento peppers
  • 1/2 cup green olive sliced lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
I know the list is a little daunting. I'm sorry. It's worth it! Promise.

Plus, this makes a TON. You can feed several people or two people can eat on it for a few days.

Two important things to note about this recipe:
  1. Set aside the green olives, capers, pimientos and vinegar - we'll be putting them in at the very end!
  2. Don't add any salt until AFTER the olives/capers/pimientos go in and it simmers for a bit. They provide the majority of the salt in the dish, and you don't want to over do it. :)

Step 2: Prep and Cook the Bacon and Beef

Slice your flank steak into strips and roughly chop the bacon.

Pop a large french or dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Throw in the bacon and cook until crisp. Pull it out and put it on a plate while you cook the steak.

Salt and pepper the steak liberally and brown in batches in the bacon fat. It will go pretty quick! As it browns, pull it out of the pan and onto the plate with the bacon.

Step 3: Cook the Onion and Peppers

Put them in the same pan - cook until nice and soft. 

As liquid starts to come out of them, use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan and get up some of the yummy steak and bacon pieces that have gotten stuck. :D

Step 4: Add in Seasonings, Tomatoes and Liquid

Once the onions and peppers are soft, add in the cumin, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, garlic and tomato paste. Stir this around until the tomato paste begins to brown slightly and starts smelling really tasty.

Then pour in 1/2 cup white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Let it bubble for a couple minutes.

At that point, add in the two cups of beef stock and the can of tomatoes along with the steak and bacon.

Stir well, cover, and lower to a simmer. 

You're going to simmer this until the steak gets nice and tender - it will take 2-3 hours.

Step 5: Shred the Steak, Reduce the Liquid

Once the steak is soft, pull it out onto a plate.

Turn up the heat to medium-high and let the liquid reduce slightly while you shred the steak.

It's easiest to use two forks to do your shredding - that way you can work the steak with it when it's hot!

Step 6: Last Simmering + Adding in the Last Bits

Once the liquid has reduced a bit and your steak is shredded you're ready for the home stretch!

Add the steak, green olives, capers, pimientos and white vinegar into the pot. Stir well and simmer, uncovered for another half hour or so.

Step 7: Taste Test + Serving!

Once all the ingredients are in and it's simmered for 10-15 minutes, taste it and see if you need more salt. Chances are a little won't hurt. :D

Continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until it's reached a consistency you like - I tend to go for a very thick stew consistency.

Serve by itself or over white rice - or even save it to reheat the next day. It's amazingly good the next day because the steak takes on the full flavor of the sauce.

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