Ropa Vieja with Fried PlantainsPosted on Mar 12, 2012 | 57 comments
Spotting plantains with Liz and Beth in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market was one of our most exciting, unexpected finds of the year. Plantains, which are indigenous to South Asia but popular throughout Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, don’t come up much in Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine. And, while you can find Libyan, Yemeni, and Iraqi food galore throughout the country, Cuban restaurants aren’t exactly commonplace. Excited to purchase the plantains I bought two (yes, only two – what was I thinking?!) with no distinct plan but thoughts of frying them. Beth made some super awesome plantain chips with hers.
Thinking about fried plantains got me thinking about Cuban food, which in turn had me drooling over memories of comforting, flavorful ropa vieja from some of New York’s fine Cuban restaurants. I knew I had to make a big pot of this rich stew to go with my fried plantains. For those who don’t speak Spanish, allow me to translate: ropa vieja means old clothes. Mmmmm. Appetizing, no? It’s because the shredded strips of beef somewhat resemble old clothes, or something like that. I had no idea that ropa vieja originated in the Spanish Canary Islands, as does much of Cuban cuisine (which is a unique mix of Spanish, Latin, Caribbean, African, and even Chinese).
As usual, I did lots of research before diving in. My recipe is an amalgam of elements and tips that I gleaned from Bitchin’ Camero, Cuban Home Cooking, Epicurious, and the Food Network. This is definitely a lazy Sunday recipe, as it takes a few hours to cook as well as a few pots and pans. But the result is so worth it! The beef is simmered until tender enough to shred, and then mixed with tomatoes, garlic, red and green peppers, and the reduced braising liquid. Served with rice and fried plantains (any kind work here!) it’s a dish that makes you let out a sigh at first bite.
- 1½ pounds flank steak (in Israel I used cut #4, katef mercazi)
- 2 medium onions (1 quartered with skin on and 1 peeled and sliced)
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 8 cloves garlic (5 crushed and 3 minced)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ quarts water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 sweet or green plantains, peeled and sliced into coins
- Put the beef, quartered onion, carrots, 5 cloves crushed garlic, and bay leaf in a large stock pot and pour the water over.
- Cook, covered for 1½ to 2 hours, until meat is very tender.
- Transfer the beef to a plate and loosely tent with foil. Allow to rest until slightly cooled, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Using two forks, shred the beef. Set aside.
- While the beef is cooling, strain the braising liquid, pushing on the solids, and return to the pot.
- Boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 30 minutes.
- In a large pan heat the vegetable oil and add the sliced onion and green and red peppers. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add the shredded beef, crushed tomatoes, oregano, tomato paste, 3 cloves minced garlic, and ½ cup of the braising liquid.
- Simmer until the beef is heated through, adding more braising liquid if needed.
- Serve over rice with fried plantains.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the plantains so they are in one even layer. Cook in batches if necessary.
- Cook until plantains are lightly golden on one side, then flip. They should be slightly softened and evenly browned.
- Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with salt. Serve.