Ropa Vieja {Cuban Braised Shredded Beef}

Ropa Vieja - Cuban Braised Shredded Beef - by My Utensil CrockThis is a recipe I would have shied away from when I first started cooking. Several techniques, “weird” ingredients, and do I even like “Ropa vieja“?

Well, let’s smash the why-I-can’t list with a meat mallet.

Upon further reflection, the “several techniques” were just a few rotations of searing (browning in a pan), and braising (cooking in liquid, no skill needed, a/k/a putting a pot in the oven and walking away).

Ropa Vieja - Cuban Braised Shredded Beef - by My Utensil Crock

Searing = delicious and beautiful, not scary.

The “foreign” ingredients were red peppers – which I have found so versatile in cooking, that I have trained myself to appreciate them. When cooked. Not raw just yet. Baby steps. And green olives: I LOVED black olives growing up, and still do, but for some reason I have shied away from green. I went out on a limb and got a can of pitted green olives for this dish, and found myself snacking on the extras. What was I so scared of? And, two anchovy filets. I hear you on this one. But anchovy just adds salt and umami, “an almost indescribable fifth taste that takes your eating experience beyond salty, sweet, sour and bitter.” WHAT. Hard to resist, yes? {If the filets in the tin turn you off, anchovy paste in a tube would be a fine substitute.}

And yes, I do like Ropa Vieja. Turns out, I love it. “Cuban Braised Shredded Beef” – why didn’t you say so? Who doesn’t love braised shredded beef? This dish is made from brisket, which I love, and because I’m making it with my own two hands, I can discard fatty portions that may detract from the dish. I know, some people love fatty meat. Not this gal.Ropa Vieja - Cuban Braised Shredded Beef - by My Utensil CrockThis dish is so good.

Ropa Vieja - Cuban Braised Shredded Beef - by My Utensil CrockI have to admit that I didn’t realize brisket could be made this way. When I buy flat-cut a/k/a first cut brisket, I usually cook it whole and slice it to serve, like this Honey Mustard Brisket. But this recipe calls for the cut of meat to be sliced into 2″ strips, and the longer strips should be cut to about 5″. Visual aid:

Ropa Vieja - Cuban Braised Shredded Beef - by My Utensil CrockYou want to cut against the grain. This term, like “shelled” and “seeded,” always has me googling for clarification. To cut against the grain, first find “the grain.” Trace your finger along the natural lines in the meat. That’s the grain. You want to place your knife so the grain runs into your knife at a 90 degree angle. Below, the green arrow represents the grain, and the yellow is how you want to cut (PIN!):

Cut Against the Grain by My Utensil CrockPrefer a cooked version? Pin this one instead:

Cut Against the Grain by My Utensil CrockI made this Ropa Vieja last week to take to a friend who had surgery. We ate dinner together, and I left her another serving for later. I love recipes like this where the meat and vegetables are all in the same dish, so you don’t have to think of something else to make (and then actually make it). Two red peppers and two onions (and some tomato sauce) in the recipe check that box for me. I made rice to serve this recipe on… In my opinion, the sauce was so good, that the bland rice kind of detracted. I would recommend just serving from the dutch oven on the table, with some roasted potatoes and red wine!

Ropa Vieja {Cuban Braised Shredded Beef}
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4+ servings
Ingredients
  • 2 lb beef brisket ("first cut" a/k/a "flat cut")
  • 5 T vegetable oil
  • 2 onions (cut in half through the stem, then sliced thinly)
  • 2 red peppers (seeds removed and sliced into thin strips, about the same size as the onions)
  • 2 anchovy filets (or 1 t anchovy paste)
  • 4 garlic cloves (sliced or minced or use a zester)
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1.5 t oregano
  • .5 c pinot grigio (or other dry white wine)
  • 2 c low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • .75 c pitted green olives (chopped coarse)
Instructions
  1. Cut brisket into 2-inch wide strips. Do this by cutting against the grain. Cut Against the Grain by My Utensil Crock
  2. Cut any long strips in half, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. When warm, add 2 T vegetable oil, heat until it smokes, and swirl it around the pot to coat the bottom lightly.
  4. Add half the meat, and brown on all sides, transferring the meat to a large plate or a bowl, adding more oil if needed for the second batch (about 7 min per batch).
  5. When you have removed the second batch, add the onions and peppers to the pot and cook until they brown and soften, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove the vegetables from the pot to a large plate or a bowl. Note: the vegetables don't go in the oven with the meat!
  7. At this point, start the oven heating to 300, with a rack in the middle.
  8. Add 1 T vegetable oil to the pot. As soon as the oil heats, add the anchovy filets or anchovy paste, garlic, cumin, and oregano, and cook for 30 seconds, breaking up the anchovy as you cook.
  9. Add the wine a little at a time, using it to deglaze the pan (deglaze = loosen the brown bits at the bottom of the pan, use a wooden spoon to scrape the bits off and help it along). The wine will mostly evaporate.
  10. Turn down the heat to medium, stir in the chicken broth and tomato sauce, and add the bay leaves.
  11. Return the meat to the pot (along with any juices under the meat), and bring the liquid to a low boil.
  12. Remove from heat, cover the pot with foil loosely, and place a lid on the pot over the foil.
  13. Place in the oven for 2 to 2.25 hours. If the meat isn't completely submerged, flip it halfway through. Careful for the steam when you do!
  14. When the braising is done, remove the pot from the oven and remove the meat from the pot, placing it on a large plate or cutting board. Let it cool a little.
  15. Meanwhile, place the pot over medium-high heat, and add the olives, onions, and peppers back to the pot. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer, stirring periodically, reducing the sauce a bit.
  16. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove any remaining fat and discard the fat (I use the back of a knife to scrape it off in one piece).
  17. Then, using two forks, shred the meat into bite-sized chunks. Just insert one fork into the grain, and pull it apart with the other fork.
  18. Stir the shredded meat back into the sauce. And enjoy!

Ropa Vieja - Cuban Braised Shredded Beef - by My Utensil Crock

Adapted from: Cook’s Illustrated, “Cuban Braised Shredded Beef (Ropa Vieja),” March & April 2015

Comments

  1. Maureen Solan says

    I make this all winter long. I learned the recipe from our daughter in law who happens to be Cuban. We use flank steak instead of brisket and serve it with white rice. Lovely!

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