Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ropa Vieja

Ropa vieja is Spanish for "old clothes". That is also the name of this wonderful dish which originated in the Canary Islands. The story behind the name is about a very poor man whose relatives were coming to visit him for a family dinner. The man was so poor that he could not afford to buy enough food for the dinner. To remedy the situation, he went into his closet and gathered some of his old clothes and imbued them with his love. When he cooked his old clothes, his love for his family turned them into a wonderful beef stew.

This recipe is the Cuban version of Ropa Vieja. It is one of the most popular dishes in's basically a spicy stew made of shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base. It is a wonderful blend of flavors: bell pepper, garlic, onion, cumin, jalapeño, tomato, flank steak and the crowning glory at the end...chopped pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives. It's meant to be served with white or yellow rice (to offset the heat)...but you can skip the rice if you want to go Paleo.

This recipe is very easy as you are basically going to toss all of the ingredients in a slow cooker. They'll cook for 8 hours at which point you shred the beef and mix it back into the sauce while adding the olives. If you like your food with a little heat (as I do), do not discard the seeds from the jalapeños...mix them right into the sauce. If you are not a fan of hot food, toss the jalapeño seeds when you are slicing the peppers.

This recipe from Food Network Magazine serves 8 people. If you are serving 4, just cut the recipe in half. While you could feasibly pair it with Sauvignon Blanc or Zinfandel, I strongly encourage you to pair it with beer...a good Mexican beer to be exact. I like a pale, light-bodied lager with Ropa Vieja. El Pacifico is my favorite.

3 pounds flank steak
28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
6 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 medium jalapeño peppers, sliced*
3 bell peppers, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 tablespoons chopped, pimiento-stuffed Spanish green olives plus 2 tablespoons of brine from the jar

*For more heat, use seeds. For less heat, discard seeds.


  1. Combine, tomatoes, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, cumin, jalapeños and salt in a slow cooker. Add steak, bell peppers and onion. Toss to coat. Cover and cook on low, undisturbed, for 8 hours.
  2. Remove steak and shred the meat with two forks (you can also slice it into long, thin pieces with a knife). Add the meat back to the sauce, then stir in the olives and olive brine. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Divide among serving plates and serve.

Pairing: Ice cold beer

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