Ropa Vieja might be my favorite Cuban dish. Scratch that, I have a hard time picking an winner from my favorites of picadillo, ropa vieja, and masitas de puerco. There’s just so many delicious meat dishes in Cuban cuisine. Ropa Vieja (which translates to old clothes) is a great party dish. It can be doubled or trippled very easily and it’s perfect to make in advance. I usually make a 5lb brisket just so we can have leftovers. This time I froze half of it for another round of dinners. For me, cuban food wasn’t something I ate often in restaurants before being gluten free. Now, I do have to ask many questions about thickeners and seasonings if I do eat in a Cuban restaurant. I think I was an eye opening experience for a waitress in Miami trying to explain that I needed to know what was in the criolla sauce. However, I’ve enjoyed learning how to make all these dishes at home then I know I can guarantee they are gluten free.
Ropa vieja is a time consuming dish to make but it’s worth it. You can make it in a crockpot with a few modifications. I know that it’s just as tasty as we have an Auntie who makes it that way. However, I like to do it the traditional way slowly poaching the brisket before letting it simmer in the tomato based criolla sauce. The leftover broth from poaching the beef makes makes a great a stock base for soup later in the week. I made a delicious beef and mushroom soup with this batch!
- 4lbs brisket
- 1 sprig of parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 large onions
- 7 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 carrot, cut into 1" pieces
- 3 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 large green bell peppers, char them on an open flame, remove skin, and then slice into thin strips
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/3 c olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (canned with no seasonings)
- 1 c beef broth (from poaching)
- 1/2 c (white wine)
- 2 tbsp white vinegar (you can add approximately 1 tbsp extra of vinegar to replace the white wine)
- In a large stock pot add brisket, 1 bay leaf, parsley, 1 tsp salt, peppercorns, 2 garlic cloves, and 3 onions cut into quarters.
- Add water to cover the brisket and bring to a boil.
- Once pot is boiling, turn heat down to a simmer and let cook covered for 1 1/2-2 hours.
- When brisket is tender, remove from pot and let cool. Save at least 1 cup of beef stock.
- In a mortar and pestle mash 5 garlic cloves with 2 tsp of salt and the oregano.
- Slice the remaining onion into thin half rounds.
- Set a heavy bottomed shallow pan over medium heat then add the olive oil.
- Add the onion and sauté until translucent.
- While onion is cooking, take two forks and shred the meat into long thin strands. Some will be thicker pieces than others. I find using the forks against each other the best way to do this.
- Add in the oregano paste and cook for one minute.
- Pour in 1 cup of tomato sauce, the white wine (if using), vinegar, and 1/2 cup of stock.
- Mix to combine and add the bay leaf.
- Simmer the liquid mixture for 10 minutes, then taste and add salt if necessary.
- Add in the beef and the sliced peppers.
- If you need more tomato sauce or stock add them now to the pan. The sauce should be lightly red and about halfway up through the meat mixture in the pan.
- Simmer the meat for at least a half hour with the lid ajar. This should reduce the sauce by at least half. The dish should be wet but not soupy when ready.
- Serve over rice with sweet plantains (maduros).