Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ropa Nueva

Hola muchachos!

Today we take on a Cuban favorite, ropa vieja (old clothes), a recipe that comes in very handy when you have a hunk of leftover meat that someone forgot on a cooling barbecue grill... This particular piece o' meat was rescued with minimal surface browning and, as we'll see, was turned into the protagonist of this caribbean culinary experience!

Okay, on to the recipe, starting with the ingredients:

For braising the meat:

1 kg beef (skirt or flank steak, we used chuck roast and it was fine)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
2 ribs of celery, coarsely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, bruised
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoon oregano
4 whole black peppercorns

For the final product:

1 large onion, cut into thin strips
1 green pepper, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or paste-ified
0-10 hot peppers as you like
4 large tomatoes, diced
2 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 large yellow or red pepper, cut into thin strips
salt & pepper

The preparation takes quite a bit of time, so this is a good one to make if you don't feel like going outside for a few hours on a cold rainy Sunday. First you need to braise the meat. As our particular piece of meat had already spent some time on the grill, we skipped the initial searing and directly added the meat to the pot along with all the ingredients for the braising. Add enough water to cover the meat and veggies.

Bring to a boil and then let simmer uncovered for 1 to 2 hours or until the meat is nice and tender. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool. Once cooled, remove the meat from the pot and set aside on a plate and cover. Next strain the braising liquid and return the liquid to the heat and allow to reduce to 2 cups. Once the meat is cool enough to handle, shred using a fork, a knife, or your fingers.

In a separate pan, heat some olive oil and fry the onions, garlic, and green and hot peppers until the onions are nice and translucent. Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook until the tomatoes reduce, using the back of your spoon to mash 'em up a bit. Add the oregano, cumin, shredded meat and as much of the braising liquid as you like (we added the whole 2 cups, some of us wanted more, even).

Allow this to simmer several minutes in order to further cook the shredded meat. It should be getting nice and juicy! Don't cook it too long, though, or all the good juices will evaporate! This would be a good time to add the yellow or red pepper and cook covered until the peppers are tender.

As an added bonus we decided to include some fried plantains. For the plantains, we found a hitherto unknown (to us) technique and tried our hands at it.

First, chop up two plantains into medium-sized pieces and fry in oil until they begin to brown. Remove from the oil and pat dry with a napkin, then place in a bowl filled with 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons kosher salt (you can also add some finely chopped or paste-ified garlic to this mixture). Let the plantains sit in the water for a minute or two, pat dry again and return to the oil to fry for another few minutes on each side. This double frying gives the plantains a delicious savory quality.

And here is what it all looked like, served on white rice. Me gusta!

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