One of the things my husband and my friends BEG me to cook is Ropa Vieja. Seriously, it goes something like this:
“Where are you from?”
“I was born in PR my parents are Cuban”
“Seriously? So you can make Ropa Vieja“
*sigh* of all the GREAT Cuban dishes, Ropa Vieja is at the top of the list. I often wonder why, as I much rather have Tasajo or Lechón, but I tend to please my comensales and make Ropa Vieja.
Ropa Vieja is a dish that takes quite some work (similar to Tasajo), and I have an entirely different recipe for it when cooked the traditional way. But some time ago Mami bought me a crockpot in the hopes that I would cook more with my limited amount of time (or some time late arrivals). So as I set out to try my crockpot a friend told me that it was great for cooking the meat for the Ropa Vieja, and then I fount Marta. And Marta has a recipe for Crockpot Ropa Vieja. A recipe that *gasp* I. Tinkered. With. …to better suit my taste (and of course Alan’s) while still keeping as true as I could to traditional Cuban Ropa Vieja (not my family’s version).
So here is your list of ingredients:
- 1.5 to 2lb of Flank Steak (I clean a bit of the fat off, but not all of it)
- 1/2 green bell pepper sliced into strips
- 1/2 whole medium to large yellow onion sliced into strips (halfwise)
- 4 to 5 fat cloves of garlic smashed in a mortar
- 2 tsp of Sea Salt
- 2 tsp freshly ground coarse black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp of cumin powder
- 1/2 cup of Cabernet Sauvignon red wine (preferably the same one you will use for dinner)
Depending on the side of your crockpot, you might have to do what I do and that is cut the meat in half across the grain like so:
Next, mix all the dry ingredients – sea salt, cumin – as this will be your meat rub (Tip: for cold winters add the ground peppercorn to the rub as it will make the meat spicy, and the Ropa Vieja quite interesting!). Make sure you rub it on both sides and across the cut. You’ll have about half of it left to pour into the crockpot. Set aside the Flank steak and the rub, while we prep the rest. Slice the green bell peppers lengthwise; cut the onion in half and then slice thinly (or slice thinly and then cut in half). It should look like this:
Mash the garlic up nicely on a mortero or if you prefer you can mince it. I just really like using the mortero…it is kind of therapeutic. Ok so once you have the garlic, the onions and the peppers ready here is what you do. Layer some of the trio on the crockpot, add one half of the meat. Add some more of the trio, add the other half of the meat. Finish adding what’s left of the trio. This ensures the meat gathers all the garlic, onion and pepper taste.
After you layer the meat and the rest of the garlic, onion and peppers it should look like this:
Once everything is in it is time to add the 1/2 cup of the wine, the rest of the rub and the water (to cover the meat BUT AFTER the wine). I use Root Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s not cheap but its not expensive (around $10) and its also the same one we drink with dinner so it matches perfectly! Add the wine first, around the meat and softly on the meat so as not to wash the rub off. Then add water – just enough to JUST cover the meat – and then add the rest of the rub to the liquid and blend softly.
Set it in low for about 6 hours. Check the meat with a fork @ 6 hours. Usually it’s almost ready by then; if the meat separates easily then it’s time to take it out. For the last half hour or so I just set the crockpot in warm so the meat is not over cooked.
Once done take the meat out with a slotted spoon and lay in the cutting board to cool off a bit. While it cools, with the same slotted spoon, remove the onion, garlic and peppers, and place in a bowl. You will need 1 – 2 cups of the beef broth so set that aside as well. Separate the meat with a fork and your hands until is is in strands. Be careful as it is very hot.
So what next? Now comes the good part! You will need the following:
- the 2 cups of broth you removed from the crockpot
- the onions, peppers and garlic you removed from the crockpot
- 1 small can of unsalted tomato sauce
- 1 small can of tomato paste
- 1-2 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 1/4 of a green bell pepper cut into strips
- 1/2 yellow onion cut in strips
- 2 fat garlic cloves
- Salt and pepper to taste
On a deep pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and prepare a small sofrito with the 1/2 onion, 1/4 pepper and 2 garlic cloves. Sautee for about a minute and add the onion, garlic and peppers you removed from the crockpot and sofreir another minute. Add the meat, and stir with a fork so the sofrito and the meat blend well together. Add half of the tomato sauce and 1 cup of the beef broth, cover and wait until it comes to a boil. Take the lid of, and stir. Add half of the tomato paste can and stir well, making sure it blends. Cover and simmer in low for about 10 minutes. Save the other cup of broth, with the leftover tomato sauce and paste for your leftovers – you will need them to heat the meat back up so it is not dry.
Now that you’ve labored soooooo hard over this, comes the simple part. Serve with white rice, chatinos (a whole other post) and ENJOY!