Ropa Vieja

Eating “old clothes” doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it? Unless we’re talking about Ropa Vieja! While the literal translation is based upon the meat’s prepared texture, this Cuban stew is simply mouthwatering!

I remember trying this dish for the first time years ago, wondering how the chef managed to get the meat so tender, all while the flavors did a little dance with my taste buds. I practically licked my plate in order to get every last drop (hoping that the other restaurant patrons wouldn’t catch me, lol). Whenever I have an unforgettable experience like that, I do my best to recreate it eventually. I don’t eat red meat that often, so the meal has to be well worth it if and when I do. This is definitely one of those “worthy” meals.

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IMG_0134Fortunately, I found a great recipe to work from in order to prepare this stew. I only made a few adjustments, including the use of garlic-stuffed olives.
I love the taste of garlic and I’m addicted to olives, so when I saw a jar of garlic-stuffed olives I just knew they would be absolutely perfect for this dish. I was heavy-handed with them in my recipe so feel free to cut back…or go ahead and add more, I’m all for it!

 

 

 

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The original recipe called for sherry vinegar, which I’d never used before or had at home. I was going to substitute sherry cooking wine instead, until a few sources I read explained that was a bad idea. Apparently the acidity levels are quite different and Ropa Vieja needs the acidity from the vinegar or the end result will be altered. If you have a tough time locating sherry vinegar, some of the sources I found recommended using regular wine vinegar (red or white). I was able to purchase a bottle of sherry vinegar at my local market so I could avoid the “what if” scenario completely.

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I served this stew with yellow rice, which provided a suitable bed for the meat and vegetables while soaking up that flavorful broth. It was so awesome being able to enjoy this dish at home. Go ahead and try it. You may find yourself licking the plate too!

Ingredients

2 lbs. flank steak
3 medium red onions, thinly sliced
3 sweet mini peppers, sliced into strips
2 medium-large green bell peppers, sliced into strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4-1/2 cup garlic-stuffed green olives, sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup sherry vinegar (NOT sherry cooking wine)
3 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Cooking spray
Cooked rice (optional)

Preparation

1. Trim fat off of flank steak and cut into two equal pieces (for easier cooking). Spray a Dutch oven with cooking spray and set to high heat. One at a time, lightly sear the steaks, about 2-3 minutes per side. Let seared steaks rest on a plate while you prepare vegetables and broth mixture.

2. Set heat on Dutch oven to medium and add onions, garlic and peppers. Stir frequently until veggies begin to soften. Add sliced garlic-stuffed olives, cumin, oregano, rosemary, pepper and salt. Mix well, and then stir in sherry vinegar. Allow sherry vinegar to reduce for 3-4 minutes, and then add tomato paste and beef broth. Gently stir. Place flank steaks into the Dutch oven, making sure to submerge into liquid as much as possible. Place bay leaves into broth. After bringing to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cover Dutch oven with lid.

3. Allow steaks to cook in broth mixture until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the steaks from Dutch oven and shred with forks in a large bowl. Remove bay leaves from broth mixture before returning shredded meat back to Dutch oven. Gently stir in chopped cilantro and allow to heat together, uncovered, for an additional 10 minutes before serving.

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