January’s recipe in Chefs #LoveCDNBeef is Chef Rossy Earle’s Ropa Vieja. Her Panamanian-style Braised Shredded Beef is rich, flavourful, meaty & versatile and is a traditional dish from Rossy’s childhood home of Panama.
Rossy is in the process of developing a website dedicated to the rich culinary heritage of Panama, her culture and style of cooking. This dish is a fantastic example of that. A dish prepared low and slow and filled with love.
Ropa Vieja is rich, flavourful and meaty. It’s also incredibly versatile, which is good because 3lbs of shredded beef goes a long way in a household of 2. Serve it first as dinner, and then you can use your leftover Ropa Vieja for tacos, sandwich fillings, and Rossy even uses it over Panamanian tortillas with eggs for breakfast.
“Ropa Vieja” translated literally means “old clothes” and there are a number of tales woven around this name. One involves a man who was too poor to buy meat for dinner, taking old clothes from his closet and making a stew from them with all the love he had for his family, and it resulted in this tasty beef dish. I suspect it was really some cheeky kid saying “how come this beef is stringy” and it’s frustrated parent calling back “shut up and eat your old clothes!”
When I prepared this dish I served it simply and traditionally with rice and a tomato salad. But before I hit publish, I asked about other traditional Panamanian side dishes for Ropa Vieja. Rossy replied:
One of the most common accompaniments is plantain. If using ripe plantain and fried is called Tajadas and if green & fried crispy is called Patacones. If ripe & poached in butter & sugar, it’s called Plátano en Tentación. We use all those versions as a side for a complete meal.
Perhaps Rossy will share her Tajadas and Plátano en Tentación recipes with us another time.
A couple of quick notes before you get the recipe:
- Skirt Steak, while often considered simply trim in Canada, is available but you may have to look a little harder to get it. We used Flank Steak because Sanagan’s, who does carry it regularly closed before we got there. So we went to our neighbourhood Loblaws, who unfortunately only has it occasionally.
- Achiote Oil is available as Rossy notes below, but we were only able to get Achiote Paste. Luckily Rossy said we could dilute it in oil and use that. Worked great!
- This is a braising dish, which by now you (and I) have realized means you need blocks of time while it cooks. You don’t have to do anything, but you just have to stick around. Why not open some wine, or crack a beer. Both go great with Ropa Vieja.
Ropa Vieja (Panamanian-style Braised Shredded Beef)
- 3 lb Skirt, Chuck or Flank (most used in Panama is skirt)
- 2 cup Red Wine
- 4 cups Beef Stock
- 2 cups Water
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 tsp Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- Salt & pepper to taste
- ¼ cup Olive oil
- 1 tbsp Achiote Oil (known as annato in English & available at most Latin store, Kensington Market)
- 1 Tbsp Paprika
- 1 lg Onion, diced
- 3 lg Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 lg Carrots diced
- 3 Celery stalks diced
- 2 lg Potatoes peeled & cubed
- 1 tbsp Oregano
- 1 tbsp Parsley
- 3 lg Tomatoes diced
Heat oil in a large pan.
Season meat with soy, Worcestershire, salt & pepper.
Brown meat on all sides then cover with stock, water, wine, bay leaf.
Cover pan, and simmer about 2 hrs until very tender.
Let beef cool in the stock then remove it, reserving the liquid.
In a large sauce pan heat up 2 tbsp olive oil, achiote oil & sauté, over low heat.
Add paprika, onion, garlic, carrots, celery & potatoes and cook until tender.
Add oregano, parsley, tomatoes & beef liquid to the pan.
Turn heat up high and boil until stock reduces by half.