There's no one recipe for ropa vieja, the shredded beef dish that originated in the Canary Islands and migrated to the Americas with Spanish traders, but flank steak, tomato, onion and cumin are common denominators. Sometimes ropa vieja contains potatoes, or olives, or beans, but I stick with a basic Cuban-inspired version: beef, flavored with chopped tomatoes and green chile peppers (a.k.a. Ro*Tel), spices, and a cilantro kick from store-bought salsa. Ropa vieja means "old clothes", a nod to the resemblance of the cooked meat to tattered rags. This recipe starts and ends in the slow cooker (crockpot), and it couldn't be easier. The "rags" practically melt in your mouth.
Slow cooker Cuban-style ropa vieja
Serves 6-8, depending on whether you use it as a filling for burritos or quesadillas, or serve it over rice and beans.
1-1/2 lbs flank steak (frozen or defrosted), cut in half if necessary to fit into the cooker
1 14-oz can Ro*Tel
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
3/4 cup of your favorite salsa, homemade or store-bought (I use Trader Joe's Habanero-Lime salsa)
In a 4-quart slow cooker, place the meat, Ro*Tel, onion, chili powder, cumin and Mexican oregano. Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or on LOW for 6 hours, until the meat practically falls apart when you lift it.
Remove the meat and, when it's cool enough to handle, cut across the grain into 3-inch chunks. With a fork (or with your impeccably clean hands, as Julia Child would have said), shred the meat, and return it to the slow cooker. Stir in the salsa.
Leave the lid ajar, and turn the heat to HIGH. Cook for 30 minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked out.
Remove ropa vieja from the slow cooker and use for quesadillas, burritos, or a topping with rice or beans. As with many stews, ropa tastes better on the second day, and it freezes well.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
King Ranch chicken, from Homesick Texan
Linguine with red clam sauce, from Blue Kitchen
Chicken pozole, from Simply Recipes
Mexican beef, hominy and green chile soup, from Soup Chick
Mexican menudo, from No Recipes
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