Ropa Vieja

I was first introduced to the mouth-watering deliciousness of Cuban cuisine while I was living in LA. I met Barbie in a history class and we became great friends. She had come to the States as a small child with her parents, refuges from Cuba, and I spent quite a bit of time at their house eating her mother’s amazing cooking. I never saw how she did it, however, so this recipe is from Daisy Cooks! on OPB’s Create show. Daisy Martinez specializes in Latin cuisine, and when I saw this dish I knew that’s what we’d be having for dinner! I’m also going to post her recipes for black bean soup and moros y cristianos (Moors and Christians), which is black beans and white rice – a total Cuban staple.

From Daisy’s website, daisycooks.com:

This dish gets its name from the shredded texture of the beef, which resembles clothes so worn they’re falling apart. If you’re Cuban, please don’t come after me for using chuck steak instead of the more traditional flank steak. Both are delicious, but I prefer the texture of the shredded chuck to that of flank. Other than that, this is a traditional version of a Cuban standard, which will taste better the next day.
Makes 6 servings

One 2 ¼ to 2 ½ pound chuck roast or two 1 ¼ pound flank steaks 2 teaspoons fine sea or kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the beef
Freshly ground pepper
Onion powder
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup Sofrito
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Two 8-ounce cans Spanish-style tomato sauce
1 ½ cups water
3 tablespoons alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
2 bay leaves
4 celery stalks, with leaves, cut into ¼-inch dice
3 medium carrots, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
 

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Pound the chuck roast or flank steaks out with a heavy meat mallet until about ½ inch thick. Season both sides of the beef generously with salt, pepper and onion powder.

2. Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof, heavy skillet over high heat until rippling. Add the beef and cook it until well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes.

3. Drain or spoon off most of the fat from the pan. Stir in the sofrito, 2 teaspoons salt, and the cumin and bring to a boil. Depending on how much oil was left in the pan, you may have to add a little olive oil to give the mix a nice, creamy texture. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, alcaparrado or olives, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover the dish and bake until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork, about 2 ½ hours. Let stand in the sauce until cool enough to handle.

4. Shred the meat coarsely by hand or using two forks. Return it to the sauce and add the celery and carrots. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook a few minutes more. Watch the liquid as it cooks, and add more broth of water as needed.

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