The Good Life

Cook Like a Cuban—A Gourmet Ropa Vieja Recipe

May 11, 2015 | By Alejandro Benes
Cook Like a Cuban—A Gourmet Ropa Vieja Recipe

The June Cigar Aficionado, which features a guide to exploring the new Cuba, includes a Good Life Guide story about one of the island's most popular dishes, Ropa Vieja. Follow these step-by-step instructions to create this gourmet version of a recipe from the kitchen of the author (a Cuban-American chef). The issue is available on newsstands April 21.

This recipe was inspired by many Cuban cooks, especially New York Chef Alex Garcia, and by a lot of experimentation. Ropa Vieja is traditionally made with flank steak or pot roast. This gourmet version uses Certified Angus Beef short rib. My suggestion is to keep experimenting by emphasizing flavors you like within the recipe and any new ones you think could work. I recommend serving this over rice alongside plantains. ¡Buen provecho!

Serves at least 8 to 12 hungry cigar aficionados

Total prep time = about 35 minutes
Total cooking time = about 4 hours, 15 minutes


  • 2 to 3 lbs. Certified Angus Beef® Short Rib or Chuck Eye Roll
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 lb. yellow onions, julienne (approx. 2 onions)
  • 1-1.5 tablespoons dry oregano
  • 8 oz. red pepper, julienne (approx. 1 pepper)
  • 8 oz. green pepper, julienne (approx. 1 pepper)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 2 cups whole plum tomatoes, canned
  • 1-1.5 teaspoons toasted and ground cumin seeds
  • 1 lb. peas (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Step 1: Directions for cooking short rib/chuck eye roll

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Cut the beef into roughly 1 pound pieces.
  3. In a large roasting pan or Dutch oven, pour about a third full with water. Add the pieces of meat. Add the carrot, bay leaves and 8 oz. julienned onion. Add oregano. Pour about 2 cups of tomato juice over the meat.
  4. Cover and heat to a boil over a high flame on the stovetop.
  5. Once boiling, turn off the heat.
  6. Place covered roasting pan in oven. Roast at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to between 200 degrees and 250 degrees until the meat reaches an internal temperature of at least 180 degrees and up to 200 degrees and fork-tender. The lower the temperature, the more benefit to tougher cuts, but it will take more time. Check after two hours, then every hour. Should take about an hour per pound.
  8. While the beef is in the oven, take the cumin seeds and toast in a non-stick pan, stirring frequently, until you can smell the cumin. That's when the oils are activated. Turn off the heat and let the seeds cool a bit before grinding. Once cool, grind the seeds and reserve for later.
  9. Drain and let the meat (use only the meat) cool, cut into 3-inch cubes and then shred.

Step 2: Back to the stovetop

  1. Clean out the same pot you used in the oven. Add two tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté the remaining onion and peppers in olive oil until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic. Continue sautéing until garlic softens.
  4. Deglaze with sherry.
  5. Add tomatoes and cumin. Cook covered for 15 minutes.
  6. Add the shredded meat and cook covered for 10 minutes.
  7. Add liquid from tomato cans and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes, depending on how wet you like the dish.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Add green peas and cover. Cook for about 10-15 minutes on low heat.
Gourmet Good Life Guide

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