Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja, another one of those Cuban dishes that is a part of our family tradition. Ropa Vieja literally translates to “old clothes.”  Supposedly, it is based off of a legend of a man who didn’t have enough money to feed his family, so he shredded his clothes one day to make a meal out of it. As he prayed over the concoction, it miraculously became a beef stew. Now, I asked my grandmother, who is 93, and born in Cuba, of such a legend and she had never heard of it but was quite amused at the story.

Ropa Vieja, like many other Cuban dishes, is inspired by cuisines from other parts of the world. This particular dish is said to have come from Spanish colonizers of the Canary Islands off the Coast of Northwest Africa. There are other variations of the dish throughout other parts of the Caribbean too. The recipe has varied throughout generations as well as through the economic relevance of Cuba.

It is a very popular savory dish consisting of flank steak, pressure cooked with typical Cuban spices, green bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes, then shredded. It is served over white rice and fried sweet plantains. Delish!

I remember my mom cooking the meat in her pressure cooker for what seemed like hours until it was all ready to eat. Now I’ve always had a fear of pressure cookers, but she gifted me an Instant Pot for my birthday last year and I can’t believe how awesome it is. I’ve said this over and over in other posts, but to me it is seriously a time saver. Being able to eat foods that took hours in half the time is amazing. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as our family does. Let’s eat!

Here is the recipe:

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Serving: 6

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs. of flank steak (rinsed, clean of fat and membrane) *I like to cut the Flank into 2” to 3” inch cubes before cooking. That way it is easier to shred and eat.
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black ground pepper
  • ⅛ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ roasted red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup dry white cooking wine
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Directions

Note: Emphasize on preparing/measuring the ingredients before you start cooking. It makes it easier and you will avoid missing a step.

  1. Turn your Instant Pot on and set to sauté mode. Add the olive oil, onions, garlic, green bell peppers, and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the pieces of flank steak and brown for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the salt, black ground pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, bay leaves and cumin. Stir to combine.
  4. Now add the dry white cooking wine and water. Stir to combine.
  5. Turn the sauté setting off and place the lid on the Instant Pot.
  6. Switch the pressure valve to sealing mode.
  7. Set to meat/stew mode and cook for 30 minutes.
  8. After about 10 minutes of complete cooking time, rapid release the pressure valve and wait until it has fully decompressed before opening the lid. Turn the Instant Pot off.
  9. With some tongs, grab the flank steak pieces out of the sauce and place them on a large plate or large baking dish. Use two forks to shred the meat. Careful, it is hot.
  10. After shredding the meat, place it back in the Instant Pot and turn it to sauté mode.
  11. Add the roasted red bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Done!

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