There are few dishes as quintessentially Cuban as ropa vieja, which translates to “old clothes” in Spanish. While I grew up being told the tatters of shredded beef are what got the island staple its name, legend has it that a penniless man once tore and cooked his own clothes because he couldn’t afford food. After the man prayed over the brew, it miraculously turned into the meaty stew we know today. If you want to go all-out Cuban, pair it with yuca hervida con mojo (boiled cassava in a garlicky citrus oil sauce) and arroz congri (white rice and black beans cooked together, a process that gives the rice a signature gray shade). My dad cooked this for every guy I brought home for dinner in high school. While the boys came and went, this dish remained a constant for us. —Taryn Pire
6 to 8
beef chuck roast
Salt and pepper, to taste
large yellow onion, thinly sliced
large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
garlic cloves, chopped
dry white wine
pimiento or manzanilla Spanish olives, rinsed and drained (optional)
Season beef liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat olive oil in a pot over high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Then transfer to a plate.
Add the onion and peppers to the pot and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until caramelized. Add the garlic, oregano, cumin, and paprika. Cook for another minute. Add the white wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with the flat edge of a spatula to deglaze.
Add the beef broth and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.
Return the beef to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cover for 2 to 3 hours or until the beef is fork-tender.
Transfer the beef to a plate and shred. Return shredded beef to sauce.
Stir in the olives (optional). Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes to thicken.
Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over white rice.
Taryn Pire is an associate editor and food writer at New Jersey Family magazine. A graduate of Ithaca College, she's covered all things food at GOOD, Taste Talks, and ANNA Magazine. Tacos are the way to her heart and she makes a mean Old Fashioned. Follow her foodie adventures on Instagram @soundbitesnj.