Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ropa Vieja - "Old Clothes"



Everyone has their own sense of what comfort food is. For me, comfort food is Cuban food. I love Cuban food…Arroz con Pollo, Vaca Frita, Ropa Vieja, Carne con Papas, Picadillo, Boliche, and Frijoles Negros. A steaming bowl of white rice and Cuban black beans will cure whatever ails you. I was raised by three wonderful Cuban women: my grandmother (Mima), my aunt (Tia) and my mother (Mom). Unfortunately, they don’t know how to cook. My grandmother did all the cooking in our home when we were growing up. She has often told me that she had never stepped foot into the kitchen until she married. She only cooked out of absolute necessity. My grandmother does not enjoy cooking at all. I started thinking about what we ate for dinner when I was little and can think of only a few dishes that made frequent appearance at our dinner table: 1) arroz con bistec en salsita, 2) masitas de Puerco, and 3) pollo en salsita. [Translation: 1) White rice and steak with an onion sauce, 2) pork chunks, 3) chicken in sauce] The most surprising thing is that although I was raised by these women with a culinary disability, I have always loved to cook. I love trying new recipes. I love cookbooks. I love to cook for family and friends. I love buying kitchen gadgets.


So while most of my friends have mothers and grandmothers who pass down recipes that have been in the family for years. My family has no recipes of our favorite dishes. If any recipe ever existed, it was abandoned long ago in Cuba. Although I have been cooking since I was 7, I never attempted to learn how to make any Cuban dish other than white rice, Cuban black beans, and Picadillo. So now as I am fast approaching 38, I have decided to start to learn to cook Cuban food.


I am going to attempt to prepare one of my favorite dishes, Ropa Vieja. The literal translation is “Old Clothes”, but it is actually a shredded beef dish. I asked my grandmother if she knew how to make Ropa Vieja, but I got her standard response: “No se. A mi no me gusta la cocina.” [Translation: I don’t know. I don’t like cooking.]



Here is what you will need.


Chop up the carrots.



Chop up the onion. It does not need to be finely chopped because you are only using it to boil it with the meat. Onions always make me cry. My mascara was running all over the place while I was chopping this onion. I wish someone would let me know if they know of some way to avoid crying while chopping onions. I have tried the glass of water, burning a candle, and even the onion goggles, but nothing works. And you end up looking a little foolish wearing the onion goggles.



Thinly slice 1/2 of a green pepper, lengthwise. Don't forget to remove the seeds and the membranes. (Trust me on this one. My Tia has forgotten to do that in the past and the seeds are not particularly tasty in your food.)



Crush 4 or 5 garlic cloves.



Place the meat, onions, carrots, green peppers, and garlic in a pot. Pour about 2 quarts (roughly 8 cups) of water over it and boil for about 15 minutes. The reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 2 hours or until the meat is well done and is fork tender.


When the meat can be pulled apart with 2 forks, remove the meat from the pot and reserve the stock.




When the the meat is cooled use 2 forks to shred the meat into thin thread-like strips.




While the meat is cooking you can be making a "Sofrito". I made a homemade version that uses the ingredients above. My Tia has always preferred to buy the pre-made "Sofrito". You can buy it in the Ethnic aisle of supermarket, depending on where you live. My Tia would put the pre-made Sofrito in just about everything she made, she called it her secret ingredient.



Chop up an onion and 1/2 a green pepper. Once again the waterworks were on. I was a mess by the time I finished with the second onion.



Heat 1/4 cup Spanish olive oil in a pan. Add about 1 tablespoon of minced garlic. (I took the easy way out and used the bottled minced garlic.)



Add the chopped onion and the green pepper and cook until the onions are translucent.



When the onions are translucent add about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce (about 1/2 of an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce), 1/8 teaspoon of ground oregano, 1/4 teaspoon of salt to taste, and 2 teaspoons of vinegar. Cook on a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.

To finish the Ropa Vieja place the shredded meat in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, about 1 3/4 cup of the Sofrito, 1/2 cup of the meat broth (water reserved from cooking the meat), 1/4 cup cooking white wine 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. Salt to taste and cook for about 5 minutes.


I love Ropa Vieja with white rice and tostones (fried green plantains).




ROPA VIEJA


Ingredients

1 pound flank steak (falda)
2 quarts water
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 or 5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
1 3/4 cup Sofrito (recipe follows)
1/2 cup meat broth (water reserved from cooking the steak)
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt to taste


Preparation

Place the meat, onions, carrots, green peppers, and garlic in a pot. Pour about 2 quarts of water over it and boil for about 15 minutes. The reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 2 hours or until the meat is well done and is fork tender.
Remove the meat and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid. Shred the meat with 2 forks until you have thread-like strips.

Place the meat in a pan with the sofrito, broth, wine, and garlic powder. Salt to taste and cook for about 5 minutes.




Sofrito

Ingredients

1/4 cup Spanish olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vinegar

Preparation

Cook garlic, onion, and green bell pepper in olive oil until the onions are translucent.

Add the tomato sauce, ground oregano, vinegar, and salt to taste. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.


I hope you enjoy it.

2 comments:

  1. I love your blog! Now I can learn to cook too by following your recipes! = )

    ReplyDelete
  2. you asked for a tip on how to avoid having the onion make you cry...simple.... put the onion in the freezer for about 20 minutes before you cut it and it should not make you cry

    ReplyDelete