Ropa vieja, or so it is said, is “The National Dish of Cuba,” and I suppose it’s OK to say such a thing, but I’ve encountered a number of other things that probably could qualify for such a title. Setting that aside for the moment, I really wanted to come up with something that could be made in a slow cooker rather than done fresh, and after looking around a bit, I found some good ideas that gave me a place to start and the result was very high on my list for a great slow cooker recipe.
To understand ropa vieja, you really have to understand that it’s basically a stew using flank steak, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc., then supplemented with olives and a little cilantro. And like most stews, it actually gets better a day or two after you make it. I mean that, too. It gets really better after it’s been cooked and refrigerated a day or so.
The slow cooking method gives the flank steak a chance to cook slowly and gives you that sort of “ropy” texture that makes the dish just what it’s supposed to be, but without a long time standing at the stove. It works really well for this. And I promise you, this will be a mainstay on your menu for a long time to come.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 cup thinly sliced white onion
- 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
- 1 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup unsalted beef stock
- 3 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1/3 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, halved
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cut steak into quarters. Sprinkle steak evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; add steak to pan. Cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Transfer steak to slow cooker. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, onion, bell peppers, and garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes or until slightly softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in raisins; transfer onion mixture to slow cooker.
- Combine stock, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, tomatoes, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl. Pour tomato mixture over steak and vegetables in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours and 15 minutes or until steak is very tender.
- Remove steak from cooker; shred using 2 forks. Stir steak, olives, and cilantro into sauce. Serve steak mixture over rice.