Ropa Vieja. Yeah, it translates to old clothes or old rags – gosh that name just does not do this lovely meal justice! Slowly simmered beef, simmered until it’s all but fallen apart, with garlic and cumin and aromatics. And then there are the peppers. Oh my.
Really, all I have to do is just think about this recipe for Ropa Viejo and I swear my mouth starts to water. It’s so flavorful and so delish that it’s one of those recipes for me that has created a “taste memory” as I call it. I just think about it and I swear I can taste it. That flavorful, rich luscious meat with the veggies that have all but dissolved, but lend so much to the flavor. Ropa Vieja is pretty amazing and even better, can be made in the slow cooker or on the stovetop.
About Ropa Vieja:
Ropa Vieja is the national dish of Cuba and I can see why. The dish is also found in different areas around the Carribean, according to Wikipedia, and of course, it can be found in Florida, too. Not surprising, that. While it seems some recipes lean towards the sweet side, and add a little sugar, this particular Ropa Vieja tantalizes with a mix of sweet from the peppers and is finished with a touch of red wine vinegar. That play off the sweet/sour elements makes Ropa Vieja absolutely addictive. As a matter of fact, rather than sugar, some recipes use raisins for a little sweetness, added as an option in my recipe notes, below.
This Ropa Vieja was a huge hit at my house. The folks (my favorite octogenarians) absolutely loved it. And I love any dish that pleases them! At their age they’ve had so much food, can you imagine, three meals a day x 365 x 90? Give or take a little…that’s almost 90,000 meals. It’s so much fun to see them so excited about a dinner. Plus, this is a meal I think will span the age groups from toddlers with just a few teeth all the way up.
Serve your Ropa Vieja with rice and black beans, both of which are such great budget items, they’ll help to balance out the more expensive beef and peppers price-wise and stretch the pricier beef. I like to doctor up a can of black beans with a little garlic powder and cumin, and heat them up in the microwave as a quick cheater side dish. And the rice, I usually cook now in the Instant Pot; see my Perfect Instant Pot Rice, or just simmer your rice according to package directions. Maybe an Instant Pot Version of Ropa Vieja should be coming soon? 🙂
Making Ropa Vieja:
This Ropa Vieja is just a simple recipe to make and I love that it simmers long and slow in the slow cooker, just getting better and better as the hours pass. Slow Cookers do such a great job on some things – and Ropa Vieja is one of them! If you’d like, this can be simmered stove-top until tender, instead. Just use a little more liquid, about three cups, and cook, covered, for about two hours at a bare simmer.
If you’re using the slow cooker, you do need brown the meat in a skillet first, then saute up the veggies and so on, so this is not a dump it in the slow cooker meal. If you’d like, prep it all ahead and then toss it in the slow cooker in the a.m. In some extensive testing at Cook’s Illustrated, they found that most slow cookers will not heat to high enough to be safe in the time it takes a refrigerated liner to heat up; it’s best to refrigerate in a separate container.
The meat used in this dish isn’t really particular. You’ll want about three pounds or so of chuck, flank or brisket, and I chose the workhouse chuck. Flank used to be an inexpensive cut until its recent popularity, and chuck, at least in our area, goes on sale often. And speaking of saving money, see the next section.
Saving Money on Ropa Vieja:
I like to stock up on peppers when they’re on sale and I’ve used a combo of the less expensive greens and the pricier reds. Since bell peppers keep so well, it makes sense to pick up enough for the current week and few extra if you plan to make something the following week if they’re on sale.
As you can see, this recipe makes a lot! Think about dividing and freezing unless you’re cooking for a crowd. The leftovers are fabulous, though; this is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day. Those leftovers are marvelous, too, made into Empanadas. We went a little wild and did some simple egg rolls with some of our leftovers.
- 2 to 3 tablespoons oil
- 3 pounds beef, cut into largish chunks, 2 1/2 to 3 inches
- 2 large onions, sliced pole to pole
- 2 green peppers, sliced into strips
- 2 red peppers, sliced into strips
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup broth, beef or chicken
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet. Add meat, working in batches if necessary and brown. Transfer to slow cooker.
Add additional oil and cook onions, peppers, and garlic for several minutes until slightly softened, stirring now and then. Add to the slow cooker.
Add tomato paste to the pan and cook for a minute or so, stirring. Add the stock to the pan, then stir in salt, oregano, cumin & pepper. Add the mixture to slow cooker along with vinegar and bay leaves.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or so, until very tender and shreddable. Using two forks, shred meat into the sauce.
Taste and adjust for salt, pepper, and vinegar to your liking.
- if desired, add 1/3 cup raisins to the slow cooker along with the broth mixture and vinegar.
- 1/2 cup of sliced olives may be added at the end of the cooking process.
Serve over rice.
You know I’ll be bringing this to our Throwback Thursday #38 Link Party, hosted by Quinn of Dad What’s for Dinner, Meaghan of 4 Sons are Us, Alli of Tornadough, Carlee from Cooking with Carlee and Moi! That’s right – me!
Click over to our latest Throwback Thursday post for links to their blogs and social media, rules and more info or just click on the blue leapfrog, below, to view all the Throwback Thursday Posts or enter your own!