Ropa Vieja is a Cuban dish that can be found in Puerto Rico and Panama. I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting either of those places. Whenever I think of Cuban food, my mind drifts to the movie “Guys and Dolls.” I picture Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons at a small table drinking Dulce de Leche. Pretty soon I start hearing, “Well sir, all I can say is if I were a bell I’d be ringing!”
I found this recipe on Pinterest and boy am I glad I did! This recipe was perfect just as it was written. It’s perfect for a cold winter day because the spicy smell warms up the house creating a honey hygge feel. When it’s warm outside this works too though, because I don’t have to cook over a hot stove. At the end of the day dinner comes pretty easily with a variety of options straight out of the crockpot.
I am always a little nervous to set something new in front of my kiddos for dinner. They tend to be a bit skeptical when we’re trying new things and my husband and I have the mindset that they will eat what I make or they won’t eat. They love the flavor of this Cuban beef. They prefer eating a plate with refried beans and Spanish rice instead of black beans, but they enjoy tacos and Cuban sandwiches also. I love that we can eat leftovers a few different times without it feeling redundant.
“Ropa vieja” literally translates to “old clothes” in English, which I absolutely love! “Old clothes” may not sound appetizing, but if you think about “old food” as in “leftovers,” then it helps describe this dish perfectly. Once it’s made, it absolutely can be used in a variety of delicious ways. This week I made tostadas, enchiladas, tacos, and even what we’re calling crooked cuban sandwiches with the meat! I’m excited for the next time I have company because I’m thinking we’ll start the week with this dish and then reinvent it, which will make my life a whole lot easier!
Cuban Shredded Beef
FOR SEARING THE MEAT:
- 6 whole cloves garlic
- 2-2 1/2 lbs. beef chuck roast or flank steak
- 2 tablespoons oil
FOR THE ROPA VIEJA:
- 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro plus more for serving
Take the beef chuck roast and using a small paring knife, make 3 small ‘x’ marks into the meat. Take 3 cloves of garlic and insert them into the 3 ‘x’ marks so that the clove is completely inserted into the thickness of roast. Season both sides of the meat with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the beef in one piece and fry on each side for 5 minutes, turning only when the exterior is browned. This will splatter a bit but don’t cover the pan as the meat will end up steaming rather than searing.
FOR THE ROPA VIEJA:
Chop the remaining 3 cloves of garlic into thin slices and add to the slow cooker along with all the remaining ropa vieja ingredients. I used a 6-quart slow cooker but a 3-quart slow cooker will work too. Cover and let cook on the low setting for 7-8 hours. When the beef falls apart easily when pulled with two forks, it’s done. Shred the beef with the forks and give it a stir. Taste for seasonings, season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
TO SERVE: ￼
Serve over a bed of cilantro lime rice with black beans on the side topped with additional cilantro and a few lime wedges. You can also use the shredded beef for burritos, tacos, quesadillas or even sandwiches!