Today is a big day for me! I’m spending the day getting certified as a barreFit instructor. While I’m sweating it out in the studio, I want to share this fantastic recipe for Ropa Vieja that was inspired by my time in Miami last month. Take advantage of the slow-cooker to turn out this saucy, shredded, salty, sweet Cuban Classic flank steak preparation. Serve with some hot, cooked rice, a shower of fresh cilantro, and some lime wedges for squeezing and and feel like you’ve been transported to Miami!
You know that trip I took to Miami last month? This will come as no surprise to most of you, but my awesome roomies (Mary and Meseidy) I ate a large swath through that city, decimating all the Cuban food we encountered with no mercy. Yes, I know the city is full of scantily glad beautiful people -Holy Lack of Inhibitions, Batman- but for us it was all about the food and well-clothed friendship.
I demolished Cuban Hash for breakfast (pulled pork, fried potatoes-and-onions-and-peppers, garlic, and a fried egg). I ate Cuban sandwiches for lunch. We went out to a Cuban restaurant for late afternoon snack with girlfriends and ordered an entrée of Vaca Frita that came with a massive plate of fried onions, black beans, and rice. I love unabashedly meat-and-garlic-loving cuisines.
Do you think I got tired of the all-Cuban-food-all-the-time approach I took to the city?
No. In case you’re wondering, that’s the answer. In fact, I went through withdrawal when I got home. WHERE were my plantain chips? WHERE was my bowl of beans and rice? WHERE was my deep-fried, smoked pork chop? WHERE WAS MY ROPA VIEJA? The solution was -as it often is- to make my own.
Thanks to the “Flavors of Miami” demo by Meseidy of The Noshery and Carla a.k.a. CubanBrit, I left Miami feeling like I was totally equal to making it myself. Using Carla’s Ropa Vieja as a leaping off point, I adjusted to make it mine and baby? It’s good. You’ll feel like one of the beautiful Miami people when you serve this, although hopefully you’ll be wearing more than that thong get-up I saw that one woman sporting at the nightclub. I mean it’s up to you, obviously, but I prefer to wear something with a little more mid-section coverage so I can go back for seconds and thirds without it being so obvious. You know, like a muu muu or burqini.
I’m clearly not meant to live in Miami among the beach people.
The point is this; the food is spot on whether you serve it dressed like a nun or a nudist. Ropa Vieja -one of Cuba’s National Treasures- is traditionally a flank steak that is seared and then braised in a garlicky tomato sauce with onions and peppers until the steak can easily be shredded into long, thin, ropy pieces like tattered old clothes. Ropa Vieja actually MEANS old clothes, so there ya go! The shredded meat is then added back into the cooking juices along with green olives and a handful of raisins that provide a sweet counterpoint to the salty olives. It’s usually served with a side of white rice and a shower of chopped fresh cilantro or parsley. UGH that’s so stinkin’ good.
- For the record, I think this would be outstanding made with venison. Venison flank steak would behave much the same way, using the long, slow-cooking phase to become tender and shreddy.
- You could quite likely use a top round or chuck steak in place of a flank steak, but you won’t get the same long, ropy pieces that you would from a flank steak. Still? Yum.
- The raisins in the dish are optional, but if you omit them, be sure to add in 1/8 cup of raw or brown sugar, or sucanat to make up for the sweetness they’d bring.
- If you don’t want to use Sazon Goya because of the MSG or because you can’t find it in your area, you can make your own using The Noshery’s recipe for homemade sazon here! Sazon is good stuff, though, folks… and it’s a very authentic addition to Ropa Vieja!
- 2 to 2½ pounds beef flank steak
- 2 packets Sazon Goya or 1¼ teaspoons plus 1¼ teaspoons seasoning salt, separated
- 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil plus 1 teaspoon, separated
- 1 large green pepper, seeded, stemmed, and diced
- 1 large onion, trimmed of root and blossom ends, peeled, and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 can (28 ounces) petite diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus a pinch, separated
- ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 jar (5.75 ounces or thereabouts) green olives with pimientos, drained and cut in half
- 1 jar (2 ounces) capers, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup golden raisins, optional (If omitting, add 2 tablespoons sugar.)
- hot cooked rice or noodles
- cilantro or parsley and fresh lime wedges for garnish, optional
- Sprinkle one packet of the Sazon Goya (or 1¼ teaspoons of seasoning salt) over both sides of the flank steak. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a cast-iron or other heavy skillet on high heat. When the oil is very shimmery and has faint wisps of smoke rising from it, lay the flank steak down in it carefully. Don't move the steak for 4 minutes. Use tongs to flip the steak to sear the other side for another 4 minutes. After searing the steak, use tongs to transfer it to the crock of your slow cooker. Cover and set the slow-cooker to HIGH.
- Set the pan back on the burner, dropping the heat to medium low. If the pan is dry, add the additional teaspoon of peanut or canola oil and swirl, then add the green peppers and onions along with a pinch of salt. Sautee, stirring frequently, until the onions and peppers have a touch of colour around the edges, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, beef broth, wine, remaining packet of Sazon (or last 1¼ teasoons of seasoning salt), kosher salt, and coarse black pepper, raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Pour over the seared flank steak in the slow-cooker. The flank steak should be covered by vegetables and sauces. Cover the slow-cooker and continue cooking on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
- After the time is up, use tongs to scrape anything off of the top of the steak and transfer the steak to a cutting board. Add the remaining ingredients to the slow-cooker and stir well. Cover and let it cook while you address the steak.
- Hold the steak down at one end with a fork. Poke another fork into the steak near the anchoring fork and pull away, down the length of the steak, shredding the steak into long, thin, ropey strips. Repeat until the whole steak has been shredded. Return the shredded meat to the slow-cooker and toss to distribute everything evenly. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature on rice or noodles. If desired, garnish with chopped, fresh cilantro or parsley and some fresh lime wedges for squeezing over the dish.