Ropa Vieja

Most times that I’m in the car I like listening to NPR.  I’ll usually avoid going shopping from 11-1 on Sunday (I can’t stand the sound of Garrison Keillor’s voice) but I like when I time it so that I can listen to The Splendid Table.  A few months ago on the show there was an interview with two women who had just published a new Cuban cook book, The Cuban Table.


They spent a portion of the interview talking about the dish ropa vieja and by the time it was over I knew I had to try and make it myself.  It translates to mean ‘old clothes’ which I’ll admit doesn’t sound particularly appetizing.  The story goes that a poor man with nothing to cook for his family began to cook old clothes in a pot and his love for his family turned it into a tasty meal.  Fortunately for all of us, there is a version that doesn’t involve stinky laundry.

This is a great recipe for a lazy afternoon.  There is a fair amount of prep work involved but after that all you have to do is sit around and wait.  The beef braises on the stove for about 2 hours and then gets combined with the other ingredients at the end.  I also had it with rice and briefly cooked a can of black beans with a few cloves of minced garlic.


This isn’t a slow cooker recipe but the final texture of the meat reminds me of pulled chicken or beef that I have made in it before.  The kind that just completely falls apart when you poke it with a fork and is so deliciously tender.


Of course it’s hard to go wrong when you have a dish with a base of peppers, onions, and garlic.  This made for several great dinners for us and while I didn’t have it for breakfast, it sure would have been better than Trix with cool blue Gatorade.

Ropa Vieja


For the Braised Beef

  • 2 lbs flank steak or brisket, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/2 small red cabbage, quartered
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 2 sprigs spearmint
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 tsp allspice berries
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 6 C water

For the Ropa Vieja

  •  1/4 C olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 C tomato puree
  • 1/4 C dry white wine
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 C roasted red peppers


To cook the beef place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover, then cook for 1.5 to 2 hours.  Remove from heat and allow beef to cool in the broth.  Remove beef and shred by hand.  Set aside the broth.

In a large pan sautee the onion, green pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, and allspice to make a paste.  Cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are clear.  Add 1/2 cup of the broth, the tomato puree, wine, bay leaf, and shredded beef.

Cook for 15-20 minutes, then add in the red peppers.  Serve with rice and beans.

Recipe from The Cuban Table.

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