Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ropa Vieja con Risoni

The phrase Ropa Vieja in Spanish literally translates to Old Clothes in English.  A helluva name to give a dish.  If that doesn't get your salivary glands flowing, nothing will.

This course is a Cuban classic.  My version's a bit different from Grandma's.  Why? Because I am incapable of following recipes and have a compulsion with adding my spin to everything.  Actually, I've been playing with this course for years.

Braising is magic.  The cook skilled in the dark art of the braise, takes disparate ingredients, and weaves them into an elevated culinary experience.  Braising is Holism, where the properties of a flavor profile cannot be explained by its component parts.  In its place, it must be viewed as a balanced complete system that determines how the ingredients come together. Braising is unquestionably my favorite cooking method.

Flank steak slowly cooks in a warm spa of Voyager Estate Shiraz, organic homemade reduced beef stock, and sofrito water.  Note:  Only cook with wine you would actually drink.  If you would not serve it to your guests, don't put it in the food.

Ripe plantains and Boniato (Cuban sweet potato) offer the desired sweetness balance, whilst providing a starchy natural thickener for the sauce.

Instead of serving it over white rice, I like to serve it over risoni or orzo.


Ropa Vieja con Risoni

For the Sofrito Water:
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves - peeled & degermed
  • 1 leek (white & light green parts only) - sliced
  • 2 tbs chipotle sauce
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. In a food processor, add ingredients.  Pulse until liquified.  Strain through fine mesh strainer.  Should have 1 cup of liquid.
For the Braise:
  • 2.5 lb flank steak - finished weight after trimming
  • 2 tbs grapeseed oil
  • 1 tbs butter - unsalted
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Ground coriander
  • 6 strips bacon - cut into lardons
  • 1 yellow onion - sliced thin on a mandoline
  • 1 green pepper - seeded & diced
  • 1 cup boniato - peeled & diced
  • 2 ripe plantains - peeled & diced
  • 1 cup mango - diced
  • 2 cups Voyager Estate Shiraz
  • 1 cup reduced beef stock
  • 1 cup sofrito water
  • 2 tbs champagne vinegar
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • cane sugar
  • Fresh oregano
  • chives
  1. Remove the steak from the fridge.  Pat day with paper towels.  Season both sides liberally with sea salt, ground coriander and black pepper.  Place on a wire rack at room temp for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 275 F.
  3. In a Dutch oven, heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat.  Add the butter.  When the butter foams, lay the steak in the Dutch oven.  Sear for 5 minutes per side.  Transfer to the wire rack to rest.
  4. Pour off the fat from the pot.  Leaving the browned bits behind.  Add bacon and render over medium heat until crisp.  Add the onion and green bell peppers.  Season with coarse sea salt.  Cook for 8 minutes.  Stirring constantly to avoid sticking or burning.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Take care to scrape all browned bits off the pan.  Brown bits are flavor.  Add the sofrito water and beef stock. 
  6. Add the plantain, boniato and mango.  Mix well to incorporate.  Season with ground cumin, dried oregano, pinch of course sea salt, pinch of cane sugar.  Add the champagne vinegar.
  7. Return the steak to the pot.
  8. Cover and braise in oven for 4.5 hours.
  9. The meat should be incredibly tender.  Easily shred apart with forks before serving.
  10. Finish the Ropa Vieja with fresh oregano and chives.  Garnish with chiptole mayo and edible flowers.
That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!


  1. I'm embarrassed to say that I have yet to braise meat. I have no excuses. This looks like a great recipe for me to start. The picture looks restaurant quality delicious!

  2. I love every ingredient in this dish. A couple of summers ago, my mother got me into plantains. Now, I absolutely love them, especially fried.
    The flavors in this dish are outstanding, and so is the presentation!
    Cheers, Lazaro!

  3. So gorgeous! 5 star restaurant quality, real ingredients, love it. Wish my old clothes looked this good ;)

  4. The braising liquid sounds soo good. Really beautiful presentation and I like it with orzo as a nice switch to regular rice. This is some of the best looking "old clothes" I've seen! Haha

  5. Love this Lázaro, sounds absolutely nice! gloria

  6. You had me at ripe plantains! There is this one Cuban restaurant here in Minneapolis where I must get a side (and by side I mean a medium-sized bowl) of sweet fried plantains. It's the one thing in the midwest that reminds me solely of my early years in the Caribbean.
    This looks like a lovely dish; one that I will try.

  7. Wow - this is a seriously tasty-looking dish! It's so different from what we see here in South Africa and sounds absolutely amazing!

  8. Ropa vieja has been on my list of dishes to try for a while now. Your delicious reminder is reminding me why I need to make it and soon. Looks amazing!

  9. I just ate dinner, and it was good I might add, the first time I had to cook all week, but now you have me hungry all over again. I can only say thank goodness I ate first or I'd be in no shape to cook.

  10. That looks beautiful and positively delicious! I am so with you on braising - definitely one of my fave cooking methods, I love to make short ribs. I look forward to trying Ropa Vieja in the very near future - thanks for sharing!

  11. I like your spins..your are the rock star DJ of food...

  12. You took those old clothes and sure dressed them up a bit... :) Your description alone made my mouth water.

  13. I was wondering what this dish was when I saw it on FB. Love the beautiful plating. Absolutely agree with you that braising is magic! Your desire to put your own spin on things is very inspiring - always taking dishes to the next level!

  14. Braising sticks in my mind, and not really in a good way either. Sigh. I adore braised foods, and if someone else cooks it, I'm all over it like a rash, tell me it's braised and I'm out. Bummer.
    Great pointer about the wine and especially love the meat cooking in a Shiraz spa. Sooooo good. Presentation is beautiful Laz.

  15. I knew I would love your recipe before I even took a look. LOVE it! My fiance is drooling with excitement when I showed him the recipe, we both share a passion for ropa vieja. Totally made my day. Thanks so much for sharing, gorgeous plating by the way =]

  16. ño... so different from what abuelita, mami and even I cook, but I love it... the chipotle?? the chives??? it's all over the place but i'm soooo intrigued to try it. and of course, the plating is gorg.

  17. Wow is this some stunning dish! Braising the meat in that luscious blending must make it meltingly smooth and absolutely flavorful - which shows in the beautiful photo. I have never braised yet but oooh aren't you inspiring!

  18. What a stunning dish Laz...beautiful in every way!
    This sofrito water alone is a delight for the senses :)

  19. This looks absolutely melt-in-the-mouth incredible. Gorgeous presentation and far better than the posh restau went to last night in Paris - why can't you open a restaurant here? We need you!

  20. Your description alone made my mouth water.

  21. your are the rock star DJ of food...


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