Shred Me to Pieces
I was born for sexy, sultry heat, which maybe has a lot to do with why I adore the kitchen. And when the humidity cranks the knob a notch higher, my knickers turn a tizzy for a taste of something tropical. The combinations of salty, sweet and spicy are so dizzyingly addictive, I want to break out into a salsa and shake my shit until it falls off. Okay, maybe not until it falls out – I don’t really feel like dropping a co-pay for too much of a good time. What I really want is a mess of this shredded beef simmered with bell peppers, sweet onions and a sexy-as-hell tomato garlic sauce to bind it all up. And I want it with fluffy white rice and beans as dark as my intentions after too many pitchers of sangria. I want some ropa vieja. Stat.
I’ve loved ropa vieja since way back in the days of The Frugal Gourmet (you know, Jeff Smith, the maybe pedofile that made ridiculously good global cuisine?) – I attempted his recipe back when I was in high school and it was long before I grew the patience necessary to let beef cook slowly enough to fall to pieces. As such, my first bite was stringy and tough, albeit sauced well enough. Not to mention the use of the beloved turnip giving the dish an earthy spice that made my mouth tingle with joy – I was close, but no Cuban cigar. Practice made perfect, though, and I learned to chill the fuck out and let the beef sit in the hot tub until it was fully relaxed. Ropa vieja success was mine, and I didn’t know how good I had it…until I began a full-on love affair with the pressure cooker. The beef was beaten into tender submission in a mere hour, and I could get my eat on in more than half the time. Knickers? Meet tizzy.
Ropa Vieja (Cuban Braised Beef)
3 1/2 lbs. of beef brisket
Goya Adobo Seasoning
1 turnip, peeled and cubed
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 onions, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
3 tbs. of olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 red onion, thinly sliced
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 c. of tomato sauce
1/4 c. of white wine
1 tbs. of red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. of oregano
1 tsp. of Goya Adobo Seasoning
salt and pepper
In a large pot (or pressure cooker if you have one), toss in the turnip, onions, bay leaf and four smashed cloves of garlic (smashed with your knife – not out on a bender with LiLo). Season the brisket liberally on all sides with the Goya Adobo and plunk into the pot. Top with enough water to cover. If using a regular pot, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Let cook until meat is extremely tender, about 2.5-3 hours. If you don’t have that much time to dance with this recipe and are using the pressure cooker, lock the lid and bring to pressure. Lower heat to medium-high and allow to cook for an hour.
After beef is tender, let it rest in the braising liquid until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from the braising liquid and shred with two forks. Reserve the braising liquid and the beef.
Heat a large skillet over high and add the olive oil. Toss in the bell peppers and onions and cook for a minute. Add the beef and toss to combine. Stir in the tomato sauce, white wine, vinegar, oregano and adobo seasoning. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently – if sauce gets too thick, add some of the braising liquid to thin the mixture out a bit. Taste for salt and pepper and reseason. Stir in the garlic and as soon as it is fragrant and barely cooked, switch off the heat. Serve with black beans, white rice and plantains.