Featured beef cut:
*** Flank steak ***
Flank steak is a cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow. Its long and flat and has a strong beefy flavor and intense muscle grain. Often used for fajitas or quick grilling over high heat.
We love Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine, and one of our favorite dishes found in both, is Ropa Vieja. This is a delicious beef stew made with flank steak. Flank steak is usually cooked hot and quick, seared on the grill for fajitas. But this recipe is a nice low and slow stew. It can be served with rice or mofongo (or both!).
Theoretically any cut of beef could be used for this, but in my opinion flank steak is ideal because of its long muscle fibers that make for nice shreds of beef, and its not extremely fatty so there’s little to no fat to skim from the sauce.
This is by no means an authentic recipe. This is MY version of Ropa Vieja. We’ve tried various recipes over the years and taken bits and pieces from each to create a recipe that we like. My “secret” ingredient for this recipe is the brine from the olives. Vinegar is great for brightening up the flavor and adding a nice balance to a rich dish, so I figure why not just use the olive brine? I use this in another favorite dish of ours, Picadillo (recipe coming soon).
You can use a slow cooker to make this, but since the meat should be browned first, I prefer to do the whole thing in one dish, my favorite dish: a dutch oven.
Tip: its important to SLICE your vegetables, not chop them, so they blend in nicely with the shredded meat. If you can prefer, you can blend the sauce. (I like to reserve a few pieces of veggies and most of the olives for serving before blending.)
- 1 flank steak (approximately 2 lbs)
- Vegetable oil
- Garlic, minced- measure with your heart, or at least 4-8 cloves. I use a whole bulb’s worth.
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 3 Red/orange/yellow bell peppers- any combination, thinly sliced
- 15oz can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 6oz can stuffed manzanilla olives
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 1 package Sazón Goya – Sazón con Culantro y Achiote
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 3 bay leaves
- all purpose seasoning
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Season your flank steak with salt and pepper, or an all purpose seasoning of your choice, cut in to large pieces if needed to fit in the pot.
- Heat your oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.
- Sear both sides of the steak until browned, working in batches if needed, and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium and add onions and peppers to cook, stirring often. This is where I like to add the sazón seasoning. Cook until soft and beginning to caramelize. Then add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add tomato paste, cumin and paprika, and cook, stirring, for a minute or two to allow the spices to bloom.
- Pour wine in to the pan to deglaze, stirring and scraping up any browned bits. (If the wine didn’t get all the delicious browned bits off the pan, add a bit of the beef stock to deglaze further.)
- Add the beef stock, tomato sauce and olives with brine.
- Return beef to the pot, enveloping it in the sauce, and add bay leaves on top.
- Put the lid on and transfer to the oven, cooking until beef is tender and shreds easily with a fork, about 2.5 hours.
- Remove and discard bay leaves.
- Remove beef and shred with 2 forks, pulling it in to long, thin strands.
- At this point you can doctor the sauce to your liking. I remove some of the peppers and most of the olives and blend the sauce with an immersion blender. If you don’t want to blend it, just add the beef back to the sauce and simmer until the sauce is thick.
- When the sauce is finished, you can serve everything over mofongo, or rice, or with both!