For those of you who have not been fortunate enough to experience Cuban food yet, the best description that I can give of this dish is this: ropa vieja is to beef what pulled pork is to pork. It is delicious and makes my mouth water to just think of it. I am not Cuban so I do not claim to have the best recipe for it, but this is my adaptation of this wonderful dish.
Ropa Vieja a la Nydia
2 1/2 pounds of flank steak (Cut into strips along the length of the cut of meat AKA along the grain of the meat)
2 plum tomatoes (seeded, pealed and finely chopped)
1/2 Large Sweet White Onion (finely chopped)
1/2 Large Green Pepper (finely chopped)
5-6 Garlic Cloves (minced)
3-4 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TBSP Tomato Paste
5 TBSP Sherry Cooking Wine
4-5 Cups of water
3-4 Large Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, green pepper and garlic. Saute the vegetables until the onions become translucent and the green pepper and tomatoes are soft.
Add the tomato paste and stir it in to distribute evenly. Slowly add in 1 cup of the water and let the vegetables simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the bay leaves and stir in the sherry. Add another cup of the water and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add the flank steak strips along with another cup of water, and place the cover on the dutch oven. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste.
Add 1 cup of water and lower the heat to medium low. Let the meat stew in the vegetable juices for another hour or so making sure to check in every 20 minutes or so to stir the pot and to make sure that the level of the liquid has not dropped too drastically (if it has then add the additional cup of water and lower your heat a little more). The goal of this dish is to make the beef very tender so that it can be pulled apart easily. The meat must have plenty of juices to sit in and more importantly, it must cook slowly (meat that is cooked in heat that is too high for too little time will always wind up chewy and inedible, the only exception to this is when you are searing a piece of meat. More on that when summer comes around).
Once your meat has cooked through and you can easily pull it apart into thin strands you will be good to go so you can turn off the heat or put it on extra low. Patiently and tenderly take that strips of meat out of the juice, pull them apart and put back in the dutch oven back into its beautiful juices and make sure that the shredded meat is drenched in them.