Ropa Viejas, which translates to “old clothes” in Spanish, is a common dish in Cuba. It consists of shredded beef (hence the “old clothes”) in a tomato-based criollo sauce. The Criollo people is the name of a caste system of the overseas colonies established by Spain. Like many Cuban dishes, this one originates from the Canary Islands, which is a chain of Spanish islands located off the coast of Africa (which also has some influence on Cuban cuisine).
There are probably numerous ways to make this dish since it is such a staple in Cuban homes, but I found this recipe in my Eva’s Kitchen cookbook. I remember when I first got this book when it came out, I remember thinking that it looked really good, but never actually got around to making it. When I decided to do this blog, I thought it would be perfect.
So far, most of the recipes I’ve made have been my own, but I followed this one to the letter, so credit goes to my friend Eva for this one. (See? Friends. My son wouldn’t stop staring at her…)
Eva Longoria’s Crock-Pot Ropa Vieja (FYI: Doing this in the crock pot is AWESOME! It makes it much easier and it makes your house smell amazing…)
2.5 lbs Beef Flank Steak
6 Tbls ground cumin
4 Tbls Olive oil
2 cups Beef Broth
1 15 oz can or 2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
2 6 oz cans tomato paste
2 Tbls distilled vinegar
8 garlic cloves minced
1.5 tsp kosher salt
1 large onion chopped
1 green bell pepper seeded and sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper seeded and sliced into strips
1 bunch cilantro (I loathe cilantro, so I only added a little bit. If you like it, add more)
1. Take 3 Tbls of the cumin and rub on the steak all over. Take 2 Tbls of the oil and heat it over medium-high heat in a nice big skillet. Brown flank steak on both sides and then throw in crock-pot.
2. In a large mixing bowl mix together the beef broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic, salt, the rest of the cumin, and the remaining 2 Tbls of olive oil. Stir well. Add the onion, bell peppers and cilantro and again, stir until well blended. Add to the crock-pot.
3 .Cover and cook on low for up to 10 hours (mine went for around 9) or on high for 4 hours. You know it’s ready when the meat falls apart after being pierced with a fork. When done, take meat out and shred with 2 forks. Return the meat to the sauce and let stand for 15 minutes.
I served my Ropa viejas with Moros y Cristianos, which is a Cuban rice and beans dish that can be found in pretty much every Cuban restaurant and household. It’s name is a direct reference to the African Moors (black beans) and the Spanish Christians (white rice) as part of the Islamic conquest of Spain and the Reconquista, another period of fighting between the Christian and Muslim people. Cuban food is heavily influenced by Spanish, North African, and Carribbean cultures and this dish is a representative of that.
This is another one with a ton of ways to prepare, so for this one, I did make my own recipe based on what I read about it. Apologies if it isn’t traditional enough, but it was tasty!
2 cups of cooked white rice
1 can of black beans (alternately, you can buy Cuban-style black beans at Trader Joe’s, if so, skip everything and just heat and eat :0) )
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
3 slices of bacon, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, mined
1 tsp oregano
3 bay leaves
In a skillet, cook the bacon and onion in the olive oil until the bacon is crisp and the onions are soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook until soft (you’ll be able to tell by the fragrance). Add the can of beans with the liquid, rice, oregano, and bay leaves. Mix together and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Take out the bay leaves before serving.
Serve together and enjoy. I promise you will. It was probably one of my favorite dishes I’ve made so far.
(Side note: add a little cheese and wrap in a tortilla and it makes a yummy burrito the next day!)