Ropa Vieja or Old Clothes is the colorful Mexican term for shredded beef. Remember when I asked if you would eat a Huarache (Sandal)? Today I am asking you if you would like some Ropa Vieja. if you have eaten a shredded beef taco, you have eaten Ropa Vieja! It is a basic for many Mexican culinary dishes. Not only that, but it is incredibly easy to make. Ropa Vieja can be made at your convenience then frozen in meal-sized packages to help you make a your own “fast food” later. This secret, my working friends, is really helpful when you are crushed for time and want a healthy quick dinner.
Anyway, here is a simple way to make Ropa Vieja: First, select a well marbled piece of beef roast. I usually buy chuck roast because it is the most inexpensive. You do not want an expensive, fancy piece of beef. You want the flavorful, tougher cut. That choice will stand up to the long slow or pressure cooking methods. That brings me to the several ways you can cook your lovely tough roast. My first two choices, depending on what I have to do on the cooking day are long, slow cooking in a slow cooker ~or~ quick cooking in my pressure cooker. You can also braise the roast (requires too much attention for me), bake it (covered) in the oven (too hot here in Florida), or boil it (too watery in my opinion).
Here is one I made in my slow cooker:
Put the roast in the slow cooker and sprinkle with the spices of your choice. Add a coarsely chopped onion. Cover and cook on high or low, depending on how much time you have. In this one the onions are under the frozen roast and I have added one dried Serrano chile. The spices I used are smoked paprika, Mexican oregano, dried garlic and onions, and black pepper.
You don’t have to start with a frozen roast, but I did because, well, just because. Here’s what it looked like at dinner time:
No, I didn’t add any liquid! The liquid is from the roast itself. I did flip it over when the time was about halfway At this point I remove the roast to a bowl and most of the juice to a measuring cup. I use two forks to remove any obvious fat and to pull the meat into shreds. I could use my hands but the meat is usually too hot!
I put the roast back into the slow cooker and add a small amount of the cooking juice and perhaps a little homemade salsa (see the tomato pieces?) You can use a commercial tomato-and-pepper product or tomato based salsa, if desired, You can even saute a few chopped onions and tomatoes, add a little garlic and cilantro and add that your shredded beef.
Like I said, this shredded beef is a basic ingredient. You can add any sauce or salsa to it. It is a perfect filling for tacos, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, and many other beef based Mexican dishes. We often eat it with warmed tortillias, salsa, and maybe a little crema. You could call it soft tacos.
Guess what? You can even use this method to make shredded beef for other ethnic dishes like Stroganoff, Boef en daube, even good old chile con carne. It is just a basic shredded beef. Cook some, package it up and freeze some for later, and eat it! You won’t be sorry!