Let me start by saying, if you don’t know, that ropa vieja is one of the national dishes of Cuba. It’s Spanish for “old clothes” and as one story goes, a poor old dude once shredded and cooked his own clothes because he could not afford food for his family. He prayed over the bubbling concoction and a miracle occurred. His clothes turned into a tasty meat stew.
Is this true? I’ll let you decide. But I will tell you what is true…I love ropa vieja.
When I visit Key West, I always hit the Cuban places and get ropa vieja. Not just one way, but different ways – on a sandwich made with Cuban bread, on plantain chip nachos, and with yellow rice and black beans. Anyway you give it to me I will eat it.
It’s shredded meat with strips of veggies in a luscious sauce. What more could a guy ask for?
I’m gonna give you two different ways of preparation – slow cooker and pressure cooker. Both of these not only provide ease, but they love flank steak, which is the meat we’re gonna use here. Flank steak is not known for it’s tenderness. It can be tough if overcooked, stringy, and sometimes just eh. But both methods yield a super tender meat and it’s so easy!
Here we go!
ROPA VIEJA – SLOW COOKER + PRESSURE COOKER
2.5-3 pounds flank steak, cut in three pieces
1 cup beef broth
1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 – 14 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 onion cut into strips
2 bell peppers cut into strips
1 carrot diced
1 cup Spanish olives, drained
1 bay leaf
4 cloves of garlic, minced
handful of chopped parsley
SIDES: yellow rice, plantains, black beans for serving
SLOW COOKER: Sprinkle the flank steak with salt and pepper. Heat some oil in your slow cooker if you have a browning function. If not, use a pan. When hot, brown steak on both sides. Remove to a plate. In the slow cooker or pan, add the carrot, onion, and bell pepper. Sauté for just 4-5 minutes and add garlic. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Transfer veggies to your slow cooker if you need to. Turn to low. Add all other ingredients in your slow ingredients except the steak and combine. Add the meat and its juices to the slow cooker and cover with the sauce. Cook on low for 9 hours. When done, shred the meat. Serve!
PRESSURE COOKER: Sprinkle the flank steak with salt and pepper. Heat some oil in your pressure cooker on the sauté/browning setting. When hot, brown steak on both sides. Remove to a plate. In the pot, add the carrot, onion, and bell pepper. Sauté for just 4-5 minutes and add garlic. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Press cancel. Add all other ingredients in your slow ingredients except the steak and combine. Add the meat the its juices to the pressure cooker and cover with the sauce. Hit the meat function if you have an IP. If not, cook on high pressure for 35 minutes. Use natural release method. When pressure has ben fully released and shred the meat with two forks.
Serve on a nice Cuban bread or over rice or even mashed potatoes!
**NOTE: I’m aware that everyone doesn’t like olives. You don’t have to put them if you don’t like them. It’ll be just fine and the dish will not suffer at all.
I live in the south and I find Cuban bread at Publix, in their bakery section in a big white sleeve. I know not everyone has a Publix or can get their hands on Cuban bread. If you want to make a sandwich out of it, a French loaf would be just fine. What I do if I put in on a sandwich, so I can get the true feeling of being back in Key West, is I mayo the bread on the inside, both sides, add pickles and the meat mixture, put it on a hot cast iron skillet. I then put an aluminum foil wrapped brick on top and press it. Deliciousness!
Now on to the plantains! Yay! This is my favorite recipe and it’s super easy! I buy plantains at Wal-Mart so it’s probably something you can find with ease. If not, you can buy them in the freezer section already made up, and they’re good, just not as good as homemade!