Ropa Vieja

This is a Cuban dish. I found the recipe in one of my Cook Illustrated Magazines and have had it hanging around and been wanting to try it forever. Ropa Vieja literally means “old clothes.” The story behind it is that there was a peasant who couldn’t afford meat to feed his family so he added some old clothes the the stew pot. By the powers of hope and love alone, the clothes magically turned to beef. It is traditionally served with cuban rice and beans or Fried Sweet Plantains. I made up some white rice and doctored up a can of black beans (with bacon, green pepper, garlic, and spices). Derek loved this dish he took one bit and could taste all the love and hope I had put into it. His words were, “this is so good…like gourmet.”



  • 1 (2-pound) beef brisket, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, halved and sliced thin
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch wide strips
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry and minced (I usually replace anchovies with anchovy past because I never know what to do with the rest of the can of anchovies after opening).
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 2 C chicken broth
  • 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 C pitted green olives, chopped coarse
  • 3/4 tsp white wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 300 degrees. Cut brisket against grain into 2 inch wide strips. Cut any strips longer than 5 inches in half crosswise. Season beef on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 4 Tbsp oil in Dutch over over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown beef on all sides, 7-10 minutes; transfer to large plate and set aside. Add onions and bell peppers and cook until softened and pan bottom develops fond, 10-15 minutes. Transfer vegetables to bowl and set aside. Add remaining 1 Tbsp oil to now-empty pot (I didn’t add anymore it seemed like there was still plenty left). Then add anchovies, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaves. Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot and bring to simmer over high heat. Transfer to over and cook, covered, until beef is just tender, 2-2 1/4 hours, flipping meat halfway through cooking.
  2. Transfer beef to cutting board; when cool enough to handle, shred into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Meanwhile, add olives and reserved vegetables to pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat; simmer until thickened and measures 4 cups, 5-7 minutes. Stir in beef. Add vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and extra vinegar to taste; serve.

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