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Cuban Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja is a delicious Cuban dish of beef and peppers, braised in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. Chuck steak is first browned and then simmered in a sauce with sofrito, spices and tomatoes until tender. Then it is pulled apart, simmered some more and served with rice, black beans and plantains. Ropa Vieja is traditionally made with flank steak, however, it is a pretty tough cut of beef so it requires a long cooking process to make it tender. I like to use chuck since it is very flavorful and gets tender in about 2-2 ½ hours.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Keyword Dairy-free, game-day, gluten-free, one-pot-meal
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chuck roast, cut into four chunks (this makes the meat cook faster)
  • 2 ½ tsp salt, divided
  • Pepper, to taste (I used about ½ tsp)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable
  • ½ cup sofrito* (recipe linked above in description)
  • ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoons cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, puréed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (I used orange)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pat the beef dry and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Once the pan is smoking hot, add the beef and brown generously on all sides. Transfer the beef to a plate. (Do not get rid of the drippings and browned bits in the pot, they are key to the flavor.)
  • Add the sofrito to the pot and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Then add the oregano, cumin and smoked paprika. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally so the spices are well combined.
  • Add the water, puréed tomatoes, bay leaves and peppers. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Return the browned chuck to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and place in preheated oven for 2- 2 ½ hours or until the beef is fork tender and falls apart easily.
  • Discard the bay leaves.
  • Transfer the beef to a plate and shred it.
  • Add the shredded beef back into the pot, give a good mix, cover and put back in the oven for 15 more minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and add more salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 ½ tsp).
  • Serve with rice, black beans and sweet plantains.

Notes

*Sofrito is the basis for many dishes in Caribbean culture, including stews, soups, rice and bean dishes. If you can’t find recao or aji dulce, you can substitute with cilantro and cubanelle peppers.
If you don’t have sofrito or don’t want to make it, just sub:
½ onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp cilantro, minced