Ropa Vieja

It doesn’t look very appetizing now, does it? And its name, “old clothing” in Spanish, doesn’t make it sound like something you want to rush to eat.  And yet, this simple Cuban dish is as delicious as anything you’ll ever eat.  It takes some time to make, but it’s well worth it.

I first discovered Ropa Vieja in a copy of The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother I borrowed from the Berkeley public library. It was 1993, I was newly married and determined to cook for my husband.  That year I became a cook, a good cook if I may say so myself, and Ropa Vieja has been a favorite I’ve gone back to time after time.

I haven’t modified the original recipe much, but I have found that this dish is best served with sourdough bread.  Lots of it.


  • 3 – 4 lbs chuck roast
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves


Pat dry the roast.  Season with salt and pepper on all sides.

Heat vegetable oil over high heat in a large cooking pot. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Remove roast.  Pour out and discard fat.  Return pot and beef to the stove.  Add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat to low and cook for 2 hours.  Turn off heat and let cool for at least an hour.

When the meat is cool, shred it into strips using your hands.  Place in a bowl and pour the broth remaining in the pot over it.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, clean lidded pan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until they start to caramelize.  Add the bell pepper and cook until soft.  Add the meat, tomato sauce, wine and bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and serve.

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