My Cuban-American Kitchen

I don't have much of anything witty, educational, historical, autobiographical, or allegorical to share about today's recipe. I've been thinking about when I used to live in Miami and how I loved every minute of it. I wish I were there now: living on the beach, going to parties, eating my way through South Florida, living the good life. The people I met, the places I visited, it was always so awesome. If it wasn't so friggin' expensive, I'd probably still be there.

I made Ropa Vieja today. I posted about it back in February when Castro gave up his throne leadership. This time I included pictures. This time I put my heart and soul into this pot. By using my hands to rip the tomatoes, I felt moved, like something out of Like Water For Chocolate (yes, I know they were Mexican, not Cuban).

Ropa Vieja Serves 1 or 2
Ropa vieja means old clothes in Spanish. This meat is cooked, shredded like rags, then cooked again.

1/4 lb skirt or flank steak
1 carrot, shredded
1 small red onion, sliced
1 bay leaf (1 tsp ground bay leaf is OK)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
32 oz. beef or vegetable stock
1 large pinch, paprika
1 large pinch, chili powder
1 large pinch cumin or cumin seeds
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp cider or white vinegar
1-2 fresh tomatoes, not chopped, but ripped*
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Combine beef with garlic, vinegar, chili powder, paprika, cumin and olive oil. Add salt and pepper, mix well and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, no more than 24 hrs. When ready, put meat in a saucepan with, the onion, carrot, and bay leaf. Cover with vegetable broth/stock by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Skim, if needed.

When meat is very tender, remove from broth. Set aside. and strain broth through a sieve and discard vegetables. When meat is cool, cut off any fat and pull into shreds. Return broth and meat to heat. Add tomatoes, oregano, parsley, 1 tsp cumin. To rip the tomatoes, just squeeze them until the juices and seeds run into the pan. Rip the tomato, skin and all, into bite-sized pieces and let them fall into the pot. Don't forget to wash your hands afterwards! Simmer to reduce by half, about 20 - 30 minutes.
Serve with white or yellow rice.

I served mine over couscous seasoned with peas, garlic, and butter.

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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  1. this certainly sounds good, meat thats good & then cooked again is usually so nice & tender.

  2. We should get some people together and move to Miami! We can drink, eat, and go swimming! Hooray!

  3. kat: it was so juicy and delicious. I think I'll have to recook meat more often lol. Oh, and I'm making those cinnamon rolls today :)

    emiline: I wholeheartedly agree! I wore shorts on Christmas Day 2005. I'd love to do that again!

  4. Although I'd miss the seasons, I really sometimes wish I lived in a warmer climate. I hate winter. I like a little snow at Christmas, but it gets old fast!

    Ropa Vieja is great. I made it once years ago from a recipe I got from a Frugal Gourmet (the Immigrant Ancestors edition) cookbook. I made mine with chuck steaks and served it in tortillas. It's good stuff. The smell of the slow-cooking meat just drives me wild. Just reading your recipe reminded me of it.

  5. I don't know why, but I have an affinity for meat that's pulled. Pulled pork is a weakness of mine, so I bet this steak would be right up there too :)

    It's it cool to just go medieval on your food and rip it to shreds? It reminds me of Wayne's World with Garth and "Mr. Donut Man"

    Um if you get what I'm talking about... I guess my B :)

  6. I love ropa vieja....have never made it at home though. Will have to try this for sure! Looks great!

  7. Ohgahh! I haven't had ropa vieja since I lived in Florida, and that was a llllloooonnnngggg time ago.
    Thanks for the memory.

  8. Nikki, I love ropa vieja. Great recipe. It's down home cooking for me. Good post.

  9. It means old clothes? How weird. I've made this before and I do love it. I have to try serving it over coucous; I put it in corn tacos.

  10. Rachel: I'd miss the hills, grass, and having a basement. That's about it. I don't care about hurricanes or tropical storms.

    Adam: I really like BBQ. I'm a mere 20 min away from "The barbecue capital of the world" But it's something about steak that makes pulled meat accessible to everybody.

    I know Wayne's World, but not the bit you're talking about. I'm gonna be hanging out on You Tube for a bit...LOL

    Aggie: If you try it, please let me know how it turns out.

    Ben: Yeah, it's great stuff. I do believe the flavors are right up your alley!

    CC: Your welcome, my friend :)

    Teresa: I was inspired by your blog, actually. I was going to do chimichangas, but didn't feel like making tortillas. Fajitas came next after the ropa. I hope to post about them soon, too.

    Dawn: The 1st time I saw this dish was at a restaurant chain, El Pollo Tropical (The Tropical Chicken) and I laughed and laughed and laughed. But it ended up being so meaty, juicy, and flavorful, I soon shut my mouth.

  11. This dish look wonderful and will go down a treat with the winter weather we are having in Cape Town this week.

  12. I've never tried this! That Cuban influence you get in Florida seems to do amazing things for the food - because that looks superb.

  13. I'm not sure I've ever had this but I do know that when I was in puerto rico I went to a wonderful restaurant called ropa vieja!

  14. rose: I'm sure your guys will love it! Stay warm in the meantime :)

    foodycat: Sometimes I wake up at night craving black beans and plaintains. I can't wait to be able to travel to Cuba for real...

    Darius: Yeah, everybody's mom's restaurant is called Ropa Vieja. Puerto Rico is full of Caribbean, Cuban, and Haitian refugees. They are all familiar with ropa viaja in one way or another.

  15. Oh this looks wonderful. You used to live in Miami? Lucky!Ilove meals like this.

  16. Courtney: I did. It was my 1st time moving away from my family and going to an area where I knew nobody at all. I even signed an apartment lease without touring the community first! I lucked out in more ways than one. It was lonely at 1st, but I made lifelong friends during my stay there.

  17. Oooh now that looks good - I want to make that now! My list of must makes is getting longer and longer.

  18. I have a list, too. I'm so scatterbrained, I keep losing it and making new ones. Then I lose those lists! I'm a lost cause LOL


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