21 January 2011

Recipes: Crockpot Cuban Ropa Vieja Stew

The first time I had Ropa Vieja was at a Cuban restaurant called Cuban Revolution in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. I ordered the Ropa Vieja because it was, well, the cheapest thing on the menu, and I was, like always, broke. Plus, it was a chilly October day and I knew a nice bowl of soup would fill me up and leave me warm. The Ropa Vieja was so delicious, especially for a menu item that included a description with the words "old clothes", and I've never forgotten how yummy it was. A few months later, I ordered the dish again, but it just wasn't as good as the first time! (I guess nothing ever is, eh?)
This weekend, I had a hankering for Ropa Vieja, and I decided that instead of taking a trip to Providence and dealing with trying to find a place to park, I'd make my own version and hope for the best. The stew took 4 hours to cook in my crockpot, so it's not a fast recipe, but it was so delicious that everyone eating dinner last night cleaned their plates. My boyfriend had seconds and might have gone for a third if he'd had room in his stomach and we didn't have to leave for our moonlight maze and hayride. I don't cook with meat very often, but when I do, I want a delicious dish that's worth the expense that meat usually entails. This dish was fantastic and I know I will make it again and again.
Moira's Ropa Vieja, Slow Cooker Recipe
Serves 6 - 8, maybe more
You'll need:
1 T. vegetable oil
2 lbs beef flank steak* see note below
1 cup chopped celery ribs
1 small sweet onion, cut into thick chunks
1 15 oz can diced tomato
1.5 cups beef broth
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 green bell pepper, seeded & cut into thick chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded / thick chunks
8 cloves garlic
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 Tb. cumin
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1 T. olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 t. smoked salt
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet and brown the steak over medium-heat for 4 minutes on each side. You aren't cooking the meat through, just getting a nice brown color on each side.
Layer the celery and onion on the bottom of the crockpot. Add the beef. You might need to cut the meat in half in order to make it fit. Pour in the broth, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. Add the bell peppers, whole garlic cloves, tomato paste, cumin, cayenne pepper, smoked salt, olive oil, and vinegar. Stir to blend spices. Cover and cook on high heat for 4 hours. After 4 hours, remove the meat and place on a plate. Allow to cool for five minutes. Using two forks, shred the meat. Placed the shredded meat back into the slow cooker. Serve immediately or reduce heat to low until ready to serve. You might want to taste the dish and add extra salt or seasoning as needed. The seasonings were perfect for us, but if you want a spicier dish, you might need to add extra cumin and cayenne pepper.
We served this with a dish called Venezuelan Rice & Beans (this recipe, minus the scrambled eggs) & twice-fried plantains (basically, cut a green plantain into thick chunks, about 2 inches, fry in vegetable oil for 3 minutes on each side, until golden. Remove from heat, smash flat, and fry again for 1 minute on each side.) Put a scoop or two of the rice on the plate, add a spoonful of beans, drained, on one side, and a scoop of Ropa Vieja on the other side. Serve with a few plantain slices. So, so good! I'll be eating the leftovers for lunch...
* Note: Ropa Vieja is traditionally prepared with flank steak, but since, I wasn't able to find flank steak, even after visiting two grocery stores, I used London Broil. I believe that it's cut from the same part of the cow, but it's a thicker cut. At the Price Rite near me, London Broil was $5 a pound.
This recipe make enough to feed a crowd! We had plenty of leftovers, so I froze a 2-person portion and put the rest in the fridge. Note: the frozen Ropa was just as good as the original!
This is my own original recipe. I adapted it from several different sources and descriptions of Ropa Vieja. Feel free to make this for all of your friends and family, but please do not republish this recipe online or in print without my permission.


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