Friday, 13 January 2012

Ropa Vieja with Alcaparrado

Aaaand another Cuban dish just about everyone knows. The Cubans do a lot of soupy, stewy dishes, much more Spanish influenced than on most other Caribbean islands. Or not so much more influenced, as less influenced by other things, and by other things I mean spicy things. Cuban cooking is fairly mild, with many dishes starting out with a sofrito, that is onion and green peppers cooked soft in oil then cooked some more with tomatoes of some kind. That's what happens here. Seasonings are cumin and oregano, almost always, and the Alcaparrado is also very typical; a mix of olives, capers and raisins.

4 servings
45 minutes not including pre-cooking the beef (2 hours)

Ropa Vieja with Alcaparrado
Pre-Cook the Beef:
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
500 grams (1 pound) flank or skirt steak
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups water
2 or 3 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a skillet. Cook the steak, patted dry, on both sides until nicely browned, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. When it is well browned, add the water and the bay leaves, and simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Keep the meat and the broth from cooking it in separate containers in the fridge until wanted.

Make the Dish:
1 large onion
1 large red pepper
1 large green pepper
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 teaspoons cumin seed, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed oregano
4 cloves of garlic
2 or 3 cups crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar

Peel the onion and cut it into slivers. Wash and destem the peppers, and cut them into similar sized slivers. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the onions and peppers. Cook, stirring regularly, until they soften. Do not let them brown. Add the ground cumin seed and the oregano.

Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic. When the vegetables are well on the way to being cooked down, add the garlic and cook it for just a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and the broth from cooking the meat, and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture is amalgamated and somewhat reduced.

While that is happening, shred the meat into long strands. This can be done by pulling strands off with a fork, but I always remember the family motto: "fingers were invented before forks." Once done, add the beef strands to the pan along with the vinegar and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until everything in the pan is very well acquainted. It should be moist and juicy, so you may need to add more broth or water or tomatoes, if it shows signs of drying out.

Make the Alcaparrado:
1 or 2 teaspoons drained capers
8 to 12 stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon roasted red pepper

Chop together the capers, olives and raisins, to form a coarse relish texture. The red pepper should be mashed quite smooth. Mix it in to hold the alcaparrado together. (I admit that for the red pepper I used a bit of my Ajvar. Why not? It was good.)

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