Finger licking old cloth

Ely Milán, on: Cuisine
Finger licking old cloth

In Cuba, “ropavieja” (old cloth) it’s not a wardrobe dusty and demodé. It’s a popular dish you can enjoy in almost every restaurant or ‘paladar’, because of a colorful combination of flavors that gets you through the eyes, even before the first bite of it...

Also known as shredded meat, the concept of this dish is to strip a portion of beef in order to create some kind of sauce to bathe the garnishes. Its origins are in Spain, where is very popular in Madrid, Murcia, Andalusia and the Canarias Islands. It’s also widely consumed in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.

According to Spanish gourmets, this dish was born in the Sephardic ovens of the Middle Ages, as an outcome of the traditional ‘puchero’ from Cádiz, whose meat was stripped and cooked with potatoes, chickpeas of the same stew and fried raisins.

Besides, in Castilla this specialty is derived from stew, and is obtained after removing the broth, frying the chickpeas along with meats, vegetables and eggs. Down in Canarias, ‘ropavieja’ lost its status as a derivative and exploded with its own personality. Those islanders imported it to Cuba, where some people prepare it with lamb, which is a rarity.

Almost everyone makes it with beef, except in Lara, Venezuela, where there is the ‘pata e’grillo’ (cricket leg), with goat meat cooked to dry, and served with ‘arepas’, fried beans, whey and fresh goat cheese.

Everybody has its own method, but CubaPLUS brings you a basic recipe to cook your own ‘ropavieja’. Here we go…

  • 2 pounds of beef
  • 4 large onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon pepper in grains
  • Taza 1 cup of tomato puree
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 2 red peppers
  • Vinegar
  • Dry wine
  • Salt
  • Raisins
  • Olives

Put the meat in a pot, cover it with water and a bit of salt, and put pressure on it until it softens well and can fray it. Sauté the diced onion with marinated garlic and slices of peppers, then add the tomato puree, pepper and bay leaf, with a splash of vinegar and dry wine. Add the grated meat, with a handful of raisins and olives, plus the broth of the cooking, stir and let reduce.  

There are other variants and methodologies, which include celery, flour, turnips and a different order in the preparation, but my formula is simple, quick and people like it. And if they do not like it, they disguise it pretty well ...


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