We have a friend that was raised in Rio, Brazil. He and his wife have introduced us to the flavors of Brazilian, Cuban and Caribbean foods and I can not thank them enough! I never knew that anything besides Southern food could taste so good! The complex flavors that is common in these cuisines are readily available around these parts, it’s just a different mix and balance.
I’ve been on a kick of cooking and trying some of these new dishes for awhile now, perfecting the balance and techniques with the help of authentic cooks on… yep, facebook. It’s amazing the folks you can put yourself in connection with, using social media and joining some wonderful groups from all over the world. Don’t speak their language? No problem! Facebook takes care of that too.
Starting today, I will be posting a series of these dishes, beginning with this Cuban classic called Ropa Vieja. It’s a Cuban Beef dish that is served over white or yellow rice. I used white for us because I really wanted the flavors of this Ropa Vieja to shine and dominate the dish.
Well, if truth be known, I couldn’t find my saffron to make the yellow rice that day. I was so disappointed. As soon as I can afford a new packet of saffron, I will make it with pictures and post it too!
So, back to Ropa Vieja, also known as Cuban shredded beef. Funny name, isn’t it? Wanna know what the name means? Hold on to your pants… “Old Clothes”. I read a few websites and basically the story goes that way back in the day, folks were so poor they would cook their old shredded clothes in whatever liquid and vegetables to add flavor. Do I believe it? Don’t know, but that’s the word on the street. Just saying…
Here’s how I make it.
Ropa Vieja – Slow Cooker Style
This slow cooker style is nothing shy of fabulously simple. It’s another one of those dishes that you literally dump it into the slow cooker, pop on the lid, turn it on low and slow, cooking it for a minimum of 8 hours. The longer the better because the beef will shred even easier! Not to mention that the flavors get even deeper.
In your standard size slow cooker, add the onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, turmeric, apple cider vinegar and beef broth.
Tip: For my broth/stock, I love using beef base and mixing it with water to make one cup. It’s a super convenient way of having rich broths and stocks readily available in a snap. You’ll find them in the soups and broth aisle, typically on the top shelf and available in beef, chicken and vegetable. Love Love!
Stir that baby until the tomato paste is all mixed in.
Then take that big chunk of meat and slide it right in there with the delicious goodness of the vegetables and sauce.
What cut of meat, you may ask? Traditionally it’s flank steak. Way back when, that was a cheaper cut of meat that makes long strands of shredded beef and took longer to cook to get tender. Now days, it’s actually a more expensive cut. So, I go buy a lean cut that is on sale. The top round and bottom round are a leaner cut and will also produce those traditional long strands. Rump roast is also a good choice. Just be sure to cut off any excess fat.
If the meat is too big to handle in one piece, by all means cut it into smaller pieces. You’re going to shred it anyways.
Place the lid on the slow cooker, turn the heat to low and let it cook for 8-10 hours. (Or longer…)
In a hurry? Turn the heat to high for 5-6 hours.
When the meat is fork tender and falling apart, start shredding it. Here, I used 2 tongs and pulled it apart right in the slow cooker, but you can also use 2 forks to do the same trick.
Leave it simmering in the sauce until you’re ready to serve! Heck one could even call this a stew!
Tip: This is a great dish for entertaining guests. You can have it ready and simmering before anyone even arrives and that allows you to hang out and socialize.
Serve over rice.
Ladle on a little extra sauce for extra delicious flavor!
Looking for another Caribbean style dish in the slow cooker? Here’s another one of those, dump it in the slow cooker and let it cook all day. Check out Mojo Pork!