At the beginning of the year, Cuba was on my list of places to travel in 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, it’ll have to remain on my list (which is growing as the months pass) a bit longer. I absolutely love Cuban food, and I’ve had delicious Cuban food in Miami, New York and Chicago.
Lunch at Rincon Criollo, New York
One of my favorite dishes is Ropa Vieja, which I was introduced to by a Cuban friend in high school. Ropa Vieja meaning “old clothes” is named for the way this braised and shredded beef dish looks once finished, like the fibers of old clothes – but trust me, this tastes way better than old clothes!
I absolutely love once the weather starts to cool because it’s the perfect excuse to start making delicious braised dishes such as this one. Braising is a cooking method in which wet and dry heat are used. You use dry heat to sear the meat, and wet heat, once it’s in the sauce, to simmer and get tender. Braising typically takes a long time (several hours) at a low temperature. Braised dishes are the perfect, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs food for the next several cold months (or anytime as far as I’m concerned!)
I love serving Ropa Vieja with white rice, black beans, and maduros (sweet plantains). This braised dish is guaranteed to warm your body and your soul, and fill your home with some amazing smells!
Active time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
1.5 pounds flank steak
4 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
28 oz whole peeled San Marzano Tomatoes
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 cup Spanish green olives with pimento, sliced
2 Tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
TCB kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat a pan (I like using a Le Creuset enameled cast iron braiser) on medium heat.
2. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
3. Add 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil to hot pan.
4. Season flank steak with salt and pepper.
5. Sear flank steak on both sides and remove from pan.
6. Add 2 more Tablespoons grapeseed to pan and add onions and pepper, season with salt and pepper.
7. Sauté for 5-10 minutes until softened and caramelized.
8. Add garlic, sauté for 30 seconds, until aromatic.
9. Deglaze with red wine, and add thyme, oregano, paprika, cumin and cayenne.
10. Add canned tomatoes.
11. Let the tomatoes cook for about 5 minutes until they are broken up a bit.
12. Add seared flank steak back to the pan. It should be partially covered by the sauce.
13. Cover and cook in oven for 3 hours.
14. After three hours, the meat should be tender and falling apart. Shred with 2 forks and incorporate into sauce.
15. Add vinegar and sliced olives to the meat mixture and stir to incorporate.
16. Serve with white rice, black beans and maduros.
I’ve found that the leftovers, if there are any, make a fantastic breakfast. Scramble some eggs, heat some tortillas, and warm up the Ropa Vieja. You’ll have the most delicious breakfast tacos! I topped mine with scallions, avocado, and hot sauce.
If this braised dish has got you excited to get cooking slow and low this winter, we’ve got some virtual cooking classes that will have you making delicious braised dishes in the comfort of your own home:
- Virtual Sunday Dinner Hanukkah Feast Sunday, December 13 4pm CST
- Virtual Cook Along: Winter Soup and Stew Workshop Saturday, December 26 11am CST
Additionally, while I’m so disappointed that we can’t gather for one of Chicago’s best holiday traditions, the Christkindlmart, I’m so excited that Chef Hans Mooser who is from Germany is hosting a series of virtual German cooking classes that’ll have you in the holiday spirit! Join us for:
- Pork Stew with Spatzle on Wednesday, December 9 at 6pm CST
- Bavarian Apple Pancake on Saturday, December 19 at 3pm CST
If all this cooking gets you thirsty, we’ve still got our 12 weeks of wine case available, as well a great variety of knives, cookware (like the Le Creuset braiser I used to make this dish), and ingredients available for curbside pickup. Just go to the SHOP tab in the top navigation of our website to see all of the products we have available.