Saturday dinner: Ropa vieja

2013-03-09 at 18-30-48Literally translated, ropa vieja is Spanish for old clothes. I know this because after wasting six years in middle and high school and  two semesters on it in college, I can do four things in Spanish:

  1. Read menus
  2. Roll my r’s
  3. Read street signs
  4. Make inappropriate statements towards people, particularly women who are attractive

2013-03-09 at 18-22-46Outside of that, my foreign language experience was on par with most other people’s: it was a momentary interruption in my day. Granted, one of my favorite teachers from high school was a Spanish teacher, but not because of the content. She was an engaging teacher who motivated me, and whom I’ve come to respect as a person later on in life. (TANGENT: Incidentally, I also took French in high school and am less capable in that language of anything realistic. I can read menus and street signs, which I suppose is all one needs. My sister took Italian at Onondaga Community College and remembers none of it. Italian shares a lot with Spanish, so I can read a menu, though I’m not as good with street signs. No matter…I don’t think they have those in Italy anyhow. I am pretty good with the inappropriate statements and starting fights. If the education system in America really were about preparing people for the world, Arabic would be an option. English, Spanish, and Arabic: The three most-spoken languages in the world, right? Sigh…)

2013-03-09 at 18-26-59I saw this recipe a long time ago in my copy of the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse cookbook. The recipe here calls for a creole sauce, full of cayenne and cumin. I wanted something a little more authentic. Ropa vieja is popular in cuisine from the Canary Islands and Cuba. What I did below was combine a few different recipes out there into what I call a metarecipe.

2013-03-09 at 17-03-03WHAT WORKED: All of the recipes called for starting the recipe with olive oil, but one.  Saveur used bacon to start the recipe. Wegmans’ bacon selections leave a lot to be desired, so I went with pancetta for a richer flavor.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK: Time. I didn’t have a lot of it. So, I upped the temperature to medium/medium-high in order to fit my timeframe for last night. It worked fine.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “This is very good, but very messy. How am I supposed to eat this?”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yes, though I might try out that Dinosaur version on the next go of it.

2013-03-09 at 18-30-53Ropas vieja
By Jared Paventi

  • 6 oz. pancetta, cubed
  • 2 1/2 lbs. flank steak, cut into thirds
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 cubanelle pepper, finely sliced
  • 2 cooking onions, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jar Goya Sofrito
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • Goya Adobo with pepper
  • One packet of Goya Sazon with coriander and annatto
  • 2 oz. capers
  • 3 oz. pimentos
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

2013-03-09 at 17-12-17Render pancetta in a large Dutch oven or braising pan over high heat. Transfer the pancetta to a plate when the fat has melted off and the meat is crispy. Season the flank steak with Adobo and add the meat to the rendered grease in the pan. Cook until well-browned on both sides, 8-10 minutes.

2013-03-09 at 17-12-22Transfer the meat to another plate and set aside. Add the peppers and onions to the pan and toss to coat. Cook until softened and the onions are slightly browned, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sofrito, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine, broth, vinegar and water, and deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil, add the Sazon and tomato sauce and stir to mix. Return to a boil, add the pancetta and meat back to the pan, along with the capers and pimentos. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook 2 to 3 hours.

2013-03-09 at 17-31-12Remove the meat from the pan and transfer to a plate. Take each piece one by one and shred it using two forks to pull the beef apart. It should be stringy like pulled pork. Return the shreds to the pan and mix thoroughly. Serve hot with tortillas, rice, sour cream, salsa verde and/or whatever else you may want.

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