Flank steak braised with vegetables and aromatics until it shreds into strands is the national dish of Cuba, though the cooking process is popular throughout Central America and the Caribbean. In Cuba, it’s called ropa vieja, which translates to old clothes, a reference to the beef’s tattered appearance. In Venezuela and Colombia, you’d call it carne desmechada. This version starts with a sautéed base of peppers and onions, which is further enhanced with olives, capers, raisins and tomatoes. The flavorful mixture works equally well with flank steak, pork butt or even chicken thighs. Serve it with cooked black beans and rice.
- Serves: 6 persons
- 2pounds beef flank steak or sirloin flap, cut crosswise into 3- to 4-inch sections, or pork butt, cut into 3- to 4-inch steaks against the grain
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1tablespoon grapeseed, vegetable or canola oil
- 1recipe Braised Peppers and Onions (about 3 cups)
- 1(15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- ½cup Manzanilla olives, sliced crosswise
- ½cup golden raisins
- ¼cup capers, drained
- 2cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- Cooked white rice, black beans and sautéed or braised hearty greens, for serving
Step 1Season beef or pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high until lightly smoking. Working in batches as needed, cook the meat in a single layer, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch, reducing heat as necessary if the oil smokes excessively.
Step 2Add braised peppers and onions, tomatoes, olives, raisins, capers and chicken stock. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, cover with the lid slightly cracked, and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping any crust that has formed at the edges of the pan back into the liquid, until meat is completely tender and shreds easily with two forks, about 2 1/2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 3Shred meat with two forks, and serve immediately with white rice, black beans and hearty greens. Ropa vieja can also be shredded, allowed to cool, and stored in the fridge for up to 1 week. It will improve in texture and flavor with time.