Ropa vieja, which is Spanish for “Old Clothes,” is a popular dish of the Canary Islands, Cadiz, Greater Miami and the Caribbean, especially Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. It is a shredded flank, brisket or skirt steak in a tomato sauce base.
There are many theories as to how the dish was named. One of the more popular ones is a story about a man whose family was coming to his home for dinner. Being very poor, the man could not buy them enough food when they came. To remedy his situation, he went to his closet, gathered some old clothes (ropa vieja) and imbued them with his love. When he cooked the clothes, his love for his family turned the clothes into a wonderful beef stew.
Ropa Vieja in a Slow Cooker
Serves 4 – 6
2 lb flank steak, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 4 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
½ cup pitted green olives
2 Tbs capers, drained
3 Tbs coarsely chopped cilantro
Steamed white rice or warm tortillas, for serving
Season the flank steak with salt and pepper. In a slow cooker, combine the diced tomatoes and their juices with the water, bell peppers, onion, garlic, jalapeño, oregano, cumin and bay leaf. Add the flank steak, cover and cook on high for 5 hours, until the meat is very tender.
Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Stir the olives, capers and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro into the sauce.
Using 2 forks, shred the meat. Return the meat to the sauce to warm through. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon the meat and sauce into bowls, sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cilantro and serve with steamed white rice or warm tortillas.
Make Ahead The ropa vieja can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.