Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ropa Vieja – a show stopper!

Don’t you get tired of turkey and ham every year on the holidays? Why not ‘go Cuban’? This Ropa Vieja was the centerpiece at my Christmas dinner.

I served my Ropa Vieja with Coconut Cardamom Rice and a Mango Salsa.
Pineapple Coconut Layer Cake with Pineapple Curd was dessert. 

Bring a platter of this to your table and watch what happens. Serious goodness. Yes, it takes a tiny bit of effort to make, but isn’t a great meal worth some effort?  I actually drove to Grand Rapids (the BIG city) to find the achiote powder at a Mexican market. If you can’t find real achiote, you could swap it for some paprika which would give your dish that wonderful reddish color, but not an authentic taste. It’s worth it to start planning now on your shopping trips to get some of this spice in your pantry. Think ahead! If you find achiote, grab it! I do not recommend the premixed Goya Brand spice blends, even if they say achiote on the box…. Way, way, way too salty!!

You will see recipes for Ropa Vieja all over the internet and in every Latino cookbook, and each one might use a different cut of meat. I like flank steak because it can stand up to the long cooking  time (in fact, it needs it.) You will also see many spice blends, but I like this one.  I think my recipe has lots more veggies than most also, which we prefer. Keep everything chunky so it doesn't cook away to mush.

Here’s what you need:
3 pounds flank steak
1/3 C Worcestershire sauce
3 Bottles beer
¼ C vegetable oil
1 large onion chopped in large chunks
1 red pepper chopped in large chunks
1 green pepper chopped  in large chunks
14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
3 ounces tomato paste
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T dried oregano
1 T lemon pepper
1 T dried parsley
1 T achiote powder
½ T cumin

Here’s what you do:
Make the dry rub by combining the garlic powder, onion power, oregano, lemon pepper, parsley, achiote and cumin. Cut the flank steak steak into large pieces and massage each piece well with the rub. Cover the meat with the beer and allow to marinate for a few hours. After a few hours, transfer the meat and all the juices to a large Dutch oven, bring to a soft boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook gently for about 3 hours or until meat is tender. Remove the meat from the cooking liquid – SAVE THE BROTH. Shred the meat into very large chunks. Continue to simmer the liquid until you have about 4 cups. You may chill the liquid and degrease it, but with a flank steak, there is not too much fat.

In the mean time, sauté the onions, red pepper, green pepper, and diced tomatoes for about 10 minutes. Don’t let the veggies get too mushy. Add the tomato paste and reserved cooking liquid. Stir well. Add the meat and continue to cook until very tender, maybe another 30 minutes or so. You want the dish to have some broth, but not so much that it is swimming in liquid. The entire dish will get very tender the longer you cook it, but keep the veggies and meat in large chunks for the best end result.

Serve with rice and beans, avocado, lime, cilantro and tropical fruit slices (grilled pineapple) 

(printable recipe)

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  1. I've actually never had this dish before. It looks really delicious and I love all the spices in it. Yum!

  2. Can I make this with chicken?

    1. Hi 'Anonymous' ... I don't why you couldn't make this with chicken. You might need to reduce the cooking time but I bet it would be great. This is an excellent recipe. I have made it many times and it's fool-proof. Let me know!


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