Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ropa Vieja

I think it's fun to emphatically shout "Ropa Vieja!" while attempting to roll the r's.

Nick thinks it's fun to ask "Donde es Tomatillo?" while looking at the fish tank. Tomatillo is a greenish/yellowish plecko; pleckos hide.

This isn't our particular plecko, but I couldn't get a picture of Tomatillo because he was hiding. He looks like this, though.

We should probably get out of the house. But guess what? There is way too much snow out there. We couldn't leave even if we wanted to. In fact, it's been declared a "Phase III," which means that no one but emergency vehicles are to be driving anywhere for any reason.

"Ropa Viejaaaa!!'


I'm thinking Ropa Vieja because that's what's in the oven. Nick just likes his fish.

When planning for the upcoming snOMG/Snowverkill/Snowmageddon (I've been spending way too much time on Facebook), I was again looking for something that could cook all day but was relatively simple.

Ropa Vieja came to mind, partially because it's very simple, and partially because I was determined to make it delicious. I once worked in a Cuban restaurant that served this classic dish, and it sucked. However, most of the food in this restaurant sucked, which is why I made no money and left within a few months.

But I figured that anything that involves seared meat cooked forever with peppers, onions, jalapenos and spices can't suck if it's done properly, right?

Nick just yelled, "Toma-Mother-F#$%in'-Tillo!!"

He agrees. We're feeling the Latin vibe whilst being buried under snow.

So this recipe was started the night before it was to be cooked, when I coated some flank steak with oregano, jalepenos, garlic, and salt. It sat in the fridge all night while I stuffed my face with bacony spinachy crusty goodness.

Today, after Nick came in from the snow, the meat was brushed off and seared in the dutch oven. Then the sliced onions were added, and then the sliced peppers were added.

Nick would like to point out that HE sliced the peppers. He also seared the meat because he's the Meat Master. I know that sounds weird, but that's part of why it's funny, right? Why did Nick slice the peppers? Because I am not competent.

We ate shrimp fajitas the other day, and we had some green peppers that were soggy, and some that were raw. That's because even though I have pretty good knife skills, I'm too lazy to cut the peppers into a consistent size. That is why Nick sliced the peppers today.

We then added some sherry and let it come to a simmer. Then I was supposed to add 8 plum tomatoes that had been peeled, cored, and cut in half. By the way, Daniel Boulud also suggested that we peel the peppers. SO not happening.

I've mentioned before that I cannot bring myself to buy tomatoes in the depths of winter because they would be pointlessly expensive and flavorless.

So I added canned tomatoes but tried to rip them in half before adding them to the pot. This is what happened:

So I cleaned the stove for the third time in one day, added some water and bay leaves to the dutch oven, and it went into a 275 degree oven.

Yes, that is a very not hot oven.

That's why this timer says not 4 minutes, and not 4 o'clock, but 4 hours. And that's why it's a great snow day meal. Even a losing-your-mind-because it-won't-stop-snowing-day meal.

It actually stopped snowing right when we put the pot in the oven.

But it's supposed to start again in a few hours.

Nick just noted that I posted a snow day blog a few days ago with a picture of an almost snow-devoid porch. That's pretty funny now.

Like I said before, this is one of the things that's pretty cool about a braised meal:

Look at that spiffily clean kitchen.

So how was it? It was great. Comforting and tasty without being overwhelmingly heavy. This was a good thing, as I had done nothing but eat for the past few days.

It could have been a little heavier on the onions, and I knew this before putting it in the oven, but it wasn't exactly feasible to run out to the store to grab an onion.

With some lime juice, hot sauce, and a little bit of sour cream, it was nice and wintery yet reminiscent of summer.

It might not look all that appetizing, but it's supposed to be shreds of meat. Its name means 'old clothes' or 'old rags' depending on who is translating.

And, as is often the case with stews and braised dishes, it was even better the next day for breakfast.

Ropa Vieja
(Slightly Adapted from Braise)

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Cuban
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus additional
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound flank steak
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium Spanish onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 2 large green bell peppers, peeled (peeling is optional), cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 rd bell pepper, peeled (peeling is optional), cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lime wedges, for serving

The day before you plan to make this dish, combine the garlic, jalapeños, oregano, and salt in a non-reactive container. Add the meat and rub the mixture all over it. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 275 degrees.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter in a Dutch oven over high heat. Scrape the rub off the flank steak, and reserve. Add the flank steak to the pot and sear both sides until golden brown. Transfer the flank steak to a plate. 

If there is not enough fat in the pot, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and cook until light golden brown. Add the bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sherry and bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. 

With kitchen shears, cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces while they're still in the can. Add to the pot. Add 1 cup water, and the reserved rub. Return the flank steak to the pot, nestle it in amongst the vegetables, and add the bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer.

Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven, and braise until the meat is very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours, turning the steak every hour or so. The meat is ready when it is falling apart in to ropy shreds--thus the name, Ropa Vieja.

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