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Ropa Vieja

Does anyone have a great recipe for ropa vieja? I've tried it at home, but seem to always wind up with stringy, un-tender meat! Perhaps I'm cooking it at too high a temperature? Any help would be appreciated!

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  1. What version are you making, and what meat?

    If starting with raw meat (as opposed to leftovers) then you need to follow the usual guidelines for the cut you use, whether it be chuck, round or tenderloin. Last time I made it (roughly following a Spanish recipe) I used ground beef, browned so it remained in chunks.

    From the Wiki article:

    "The original version of Ropa Vieja contained leftovers, but later became a shredded meat dish with garbanzo beans and potatoes in the Canary Islands.... The dish is a national feature of Cuba, and does not have garbanzo beans or potatoes in Cuba; it is just the shredded meat in sauce. "

    1. First you have to use a fatty cut of beef. Sear that baby on both sides, add some onion, green pepper, lots of garlic, thyme, oregano, a can of diced tomatoes, & some chicken stock. Bring to a boil, cover & put in a hot oven (around 350) for 3-5 hours. When the meat is falling apart tender (could take longer depending on the the cut of beef) remove the meat from the pan, shred it & add back to the pan. Cool & refrigerate overnight. The next day, bring the pot to room temp & put the entire pot back in the oven w/o the lid at 350 until the liquid has evaporated by about half (you want some liquid, not completely dry). Serve with black beans & rice. You don't have to do this in 2 days, you could reduce the liquid & seve it the same day, it justs tastes better the next day. You could also saute the onion green pepper & garlic before adding it to the pot. It's not necessary to sear the meat, but it does help the flavor if you do. Totally up to you.

      1. The cut of meat is a big factor. I often see recipes that use flank steak but I find that is too lean for my taste. The meat can get a bit dry and stringy. Other cuts that would work well is chuck and if you are looking for longer fibers a flap steak will sometimes be more marbled than a flank steak.

        1. I only use skirt steak and I boil it before simmering in sauce. I've never had a problem with lack of tenderness. Stringy? Well, yes. It's the nature of skirt steak and ropa vieja does mean "old clothes," after all.

          I'll try to dig up my recipe and post it when I get home.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rockycat

            I have no idea anymore where this recipe came from but it's reliably good.

            Ropa Vieja
            serves 4

            2 lb. skirt steak or flank steak
            1 tsp. salt
            2 cloves garlic, crushed
            1 bay leaf
            3 Tbs. olive oil
            1 small onion, finely chopped
            3 cloves garlic, finely minced
            1/2 c. tomato paste
            1 tsp.salt
            1 1/4 c.reserved beef stock
            2 Tbs. chopped pimentos

            RInse steak, sprinkle with salt, and place in a stock pot. Ad garlic, bay leat, and water to cover. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 2 hours. Remove steak to cutting board and reserve 1 1/4 c. stock. Shred meat into very thin strips.
            In a large skillet, heat oil and saute onion and garlic 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste, salt, and reserved stock Add steak and simmer over low heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pimento, cover, and simmer 5 minutes more.
            Serve over rice.

            1. re: rockycat

              That sounds good and I want to try it when it's a little cooler. For that amount of cooking time and the OP's desire for tender, I would go with skirt steak. They are certainly not interchangeable. My most recent flanks steaks have been disappointing, and skirts are no brainers.

              1. re: rockycat

                I've used a very similar recipe only it called for brisket, and comes out great. But the meat should end up stringy, that's the idea. Frankly, after braising for 2 hours, most of the flavor is now in the broth, which gets used in the sauce to moisten the meat.

            2. We used to make ropa vieja at a restaurant I worked at. We would use meat left over from other cuts, like hanger steak, etc. We would pre cook the meat with a bunch of aromatics and spices, and I would make sure there was a good amount of fat during the pre-cook.