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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Peruvian-Style Steak with Aji Amarillo Mashed Potatoes

Oooh, just look at it! A Peruvian-Style Stir-Fry served over spicy mashed potatoes! It's so mouthwatering good, that my take on Lomo Saltado is often on my mind when I haven't had it in a while.

Traditionally, Lomo Saltado is a delicious Peruvian stir-fry typically served with French fries on the side. I was first inspired to make this dish a few years ago after walking into a Latin grocery store after work in San Francisco and stumbling upon a jar of aji amarillo paste. I didn't know what I would make with it, but after my purchase, I stuffed the jar neatly into my bag and smiled as I walked out the door.

After doing a little research on Peruvian cuisine during my commute home, I knew I needed to try Lomo Saltado, which typically uses fresh aji amarillo peppers. The dish originated from the Chifa culinary tradition that dates back to 19th century Peru, where Chinese settlers developed their own Fusion cuisine. Enamored, I thought "Chinese cuisine + Peruvian flavors, well, that can only be delicious!"

But since I only had the paste, with no aji amarillo peppers in site, I decided to use jalapeños and habaneros for the stir-fry, and introduce the paste to the mashed potatoes instead. Let me tell you, that was the right decision! I found that the spicy and fruity flavors of the paste melded perfectly with mashed potatoes. 

While I love Peru's traditional use of French fries in Lomo Saltado, there's something incredible about serving this stir-fry over a bed of mashed potatoes. The stir-fry sauce thickens to a wonderful gravy-like consistency that pairs so perfectly with your mash, you will want to lick the plate clean! Pro Tip: You can easily find aji amarillo paste at many Latin markets, or online with a few seconds of Googling. If you have Amazon Prime, you'll have it in 1-2 days!

But if you'd like to try the traditional recipe, serve the stir-fry over steamed rice, add aji amarillo if you wish, and feel free to fry up your own French fries! These are flavors you have to try if you haven't already!

Peruvian-Style Steak with Aji Amarillo Mashed Potatoes

Time: 45 Minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 oz sirloin or flat iron steak, thinly sliced
3 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup warmed whole milk
3 tbsp butter
2-4 tbsp aji amarillo paste, to taste
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 large red onion, sliced into strips
1 large jalapeño pepper, halved and thinly sliced
1 small habanero pepper, halved, and thinly sliced (optional)
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced into strips
1/2 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and cumin. Season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Add steak to the mixing bowl and transfer to refrigerator to marinate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain, and return potatoes to pan over very low heat. Mash potatoes using a potato masher, ensuring any excess moisture has evaporated. Slowly fold in milk, butter, and aji amarillo paste. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep warm.

Remove steak from marinade, reserving marinade in a separate bowl. Pat steak dry with paper towels.

In a large wok, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Add steak and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Transfer steak to a platter.

Add red onions, sliced chilies, and tomatoes to the pan, and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until vegetables begin to brown. Pour over reserved marinade and stir in cilantro. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Return beef to the wok, stir to combine, and remove from heat. 

Mound mashed potatoes on a plate and top with stir-fry. Garnish with additional cilantro if desired.

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