Ropa Vieja (which translates to “old clothes”) is a dish that is popular in Cuba, and many Latin American countries, obviously including Mexico. We have our own versions that change from one region to another. This stew consists of shredded beef cooked with vegetables in a tomato broth. Some Mexican cooks add hot peppers and other sweet peppers. Many housewives like to prepare this dish when they have leftover meat and vegetables from a Sunday roast, or a beef soup like the popular “Caldo de Res”.
The other day I cooked some flank steak on a skillet and it came out too hard to chew, and no one at the table wanted to eat it. Instead of throwing it away, my husband said: why don’t you make some ropa vieja! So, the fate of that hard-to-chew meat was decided, and I cooked the meat overnight in the crock-pot to have ready for dinner the next day. My husband loves soups and stews, and that flank steak gave me the opportunity to cook one of his favorite dishes. He likes when I add olives and capers to the stew, but since I’m still in the process of stocking the pantry in my new place, I realized that I didn’t have olives, but it is now on my list for my next grocery store trip.
I hope you enjoy this dish and make it your own!
TO COOK THE MEAT:
- 1 ½ Lb. skirt steak, flank steak or rump roast, cut into large cubes
- 1/3 medium size white onion
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- Water to cover the meat
FOR THE STEW:
- 3 Large tomatoes (about 1 ½ lb.)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¾ white onion, sliced
- 2 medium size potatoes cut into bite size cubes (about 2 cups)
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 cup of beef broth (where you cook the meat)
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1/3 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
- 2 pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced (See note)
- 1 Tablespoon of the jalapeño peppers vinegar
- Salt and pepper to season
- As with any recipe, some people prefer their dishes with more herbs or spices added. Adjust the addition of oregano and cumin to your own liking.
- You can omit the addition of the jalapenos in this dish, or you can add more or use fresh jalapeños instead.
- Sometimes, I add sliced pimiento-stuffed olives and a teaspoon of chopped capers to the dish, my husband likes it that way.
TO COOK THE MEAT
1. Place the cubed meat, onion, garlic, and bay leaf in a large stockpot, cover the meat with water, and place over high heat for some minutes until water starts boiling. Then, reduce heat, place the pot lid and simmer for 2 to 3 hours until meat is tender enough to shred. You can cook overnight using a crock-pot on the low setting for 8 hours or cook in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes.
2. Once the meat is cooked, remove from the pot and let it cool until you can handle it. Shred and set aside. Reserve at least one cup of the cooking broth to use with the stew.
TO PREPARE THE STEW
3. Place tomatoes and garlic cloves in a saucepan, and cover with water. Place over a high heat to cook, and when water starts boiling reduce heat to medium low and place lid on saucepan. Cook until tomatoes are tender and skins are peeling. This step will take about 15 minutes total cooking time. Set aside to slightly cool.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over a medium high heat. Once hot, add the sliced onion and cook for one minute. Add the diced potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to keep them from sticking to the pan.
5. While the potatoes are cooking and once tomatoes have cooled a little, remove skins and place into a blender with the garlic cloves. Process until you have a very smooth sauce. No need to add water here.
6. Pour the tomato sauce, one cup of beef broth, and bay leaf over the onion slices and potatoes. Stir and keep cooking for another 5 minutes, reduce heat and add the shredded meat. Keep cooking for about 8 to 10 more minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness, making sure they don’t over cook, and still keep their shape. Stir in the oregano and cumin, jalapeño slices and the vinegar (if using). Season with salt and pepper.
The stew will be ready when the potatoes are cooked and all the flavors have blended. Serve with rice and corn tortillas. Enjoy. This dish is great the next day for sandwiches and burritos to take for school or work.