Ropa de Vieja (Cuban Beef Stew with Vegetables)

Ropa de Vieja is one of Cuba’s national dishes and is hands-down, a seriously delicious beef stew with bell peppers and tomatoes. The dish translates to “old clothes” because after hours of cooking, the flank steak’s stringiness looks a lot like clothing that’s been worn a little too long! 

My friend (and future cousin-in-law!) asked that I come up with my own version, since it’s one of her favorite recipes that her Cuban grandmother and aunt would make for dinner during her childhood summers in Miami. She provided a little history on the dish and requested that I make one without MSG (yay!). I can only hope she approves. If she does, she claims I’ll be an honorary Cuban. I’ll just have to keep an eye out when I make it for her, since I heard she used to sneak spoonfuls behind her abuela's and tía’s backs! 

For those familiar with the recipe, if you’re wondering where the “de” comes from, my friend’s aunt insists on it! Apparently she has amazing attention to detail, and that’s something I can totally get behind. 

In my version, I decided to convert the traditional recipe to a slow cooker because it usually takes a few hours on the stovetop, and I wanted to see if the slow cooker could make this recipe a  weeknight-possibility without compromising the flavor! It totally worked. No pressure cooker? Save this one for a weeknight and stew the meat for a few hours, until it's beyond tender!

While my recipe is pretty authentic, especially served with Cuban rice, beans, and fried plantains, I’ll admit I added a little red wine, which may make it a little less traditional, but also makes it oh-so-tasty! Feel free to add more broth or water if you want to be even more authentic. The stew would be phenomenal either way!

Ropa de Vieja (Cuban Beef Stew with Vegetables)

Time: 45 Minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients
1.5 lbs flank steak
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup dry red wine
1 (15 oz) can whole tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp white vinegar
½ cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, halved

To Serve
Cuban Rice
Fried plantains
Canned black beans

Directions
Pat steak dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat canola oil in a 6-quart pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add steak and brown on each side, about 2-3 minutes. Set steak aside. 

Add an additional 1 tbsp oil in the pressure cooker over medium high heat and stir in onions, garlic, bell peppers and sauté until the onions have softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in oregano, thyme, cumin, and paprika and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. 

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, and bay leaf to the pressure cooker. Simmer for 2 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon. Return steak and any accumulated juices to the cooker. Cover and secure pressure cooker with lid and increase heat to high. Once the pressure cooker whistles over high pressure, reduce the pressure to low and cook for 25 minutes. Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow to cool before removing lid.

Reheat the stew uncovered over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in vinegar and olives and simmer for 5 minutes to allow flavors to combine. 

Serve stew over Cuban rice with fried plantains and black beans on the side.

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