Most commonly prepared with flank steak, ropa vieja can be made with a variety of meats and is particularly well-suited to chuck roast. The flavorful, slow-cooked dish derives from 16th century Spain. Developed by Sephardic Jews, who were prohibited by their religion from cooking on the Sabbath, ropa vieja could be started the night before and then enjoyed hot. First brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers, the dish became a staple across the Caribbean. Ropa vieja arrived in the US through Cuban immigrants and developed new regional variants; Miami’s ropa vieja is often sweeter than the European dish. To serve Cuban style, place over rice with a side of beans and fried sweet plantains.
Recipe Servings: 8
- 3 lb chuck roast, brisket, or flank steak
- 2 Tbsp (more if using flank steak) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2 red bell peppers, chopped with stems and seeds removed
- 3½ tsp kosher salt
- 8 garlic cloves, finely grated
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 Tbsp dried mexican or Italian oregano
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- ¾ cup pimiento-stuffed spanish olives, halved crosswise
- 2 tsp distilled white vinegar
- Fresh cilantro, chopped as needed for garnish
- Prepare the roast, patting dry with paper towels.
- In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat.
- Cook the chuck roast about 5–7 minutes, then flip to cook the other side another 5–7 minutes.
- Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 250°F, positioning a rack in the lower third.
- In a large pot over medium heat, add the onion, bell peppers, and salt (plus 2 tablespoons of oil, if using flank steak).
- Cook, stirring occasionally, about 12–14 minutes, until the onions have softened and are beginning to brown.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of pan, for 3–5 minutes more, until the vegetables are golden brown.
- Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has fully evaporated.
- Season with paprika, oregano, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne, mixing to coat the vegetables fully, and continue to cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, allowing the spices to become fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, breaking up loosely and bring all to a boil.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Add the roast into the tomato mixture.
- Place the bay leaves tucked against each side.
- Braise, covered, for 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours, until the meat is extremely tender.
- Let cool for 15 minutes.
- Skim off the excess fat and discard the bay leaves.
- Shred the beef using a potato masher, or two forks, and incorporate it into the sauce.
- Stir in the olives and vinegar.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.
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