It doesn't look very much like summer here in Seattle as it is cold and rainy. I'm leaving soon for England where unfortunately it is just about the same temperature. So despite the fact that it is early summer, I need some warm and comforting food. So yesterday I made Ropa Vieja, which means old clothes in Spanish and is a Caribbean stew of shredded beef, peppers and onions. It is also the national dish of Venezuela and there it is called Carne Mechada. Last time I made this it was for my Venezuelan friend and I don't know why I don't make it more often because I love it! I usually serve it on Yellow Rice that is made with cumin seeds, saffron and chicken broth (the recipe is included). Some people cook the beef in a braising liquid and then add in the peppers and onions, but I like to cook it all together so that the vegetables meld into the sauce - I will give you both versions. It's a very good dish for a crowd as it can be made ahead and I think it tastes better if you serve it the next day. If you have leftovers, I think it makes one of the best burrito fillings around and my son thinks it makes amazing nachos.
2 pounds Beef Stew Meat (I used Chuck Roast cut into large pieces - you can also use flank steak)
1 large onion, cut into 1/4" strips
1 large red pepper, cut into 1/4" strips
1 large green pepper, cut into 1/4" strips
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Mexican Oregano
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
6 cups water
2 teaspoons or more salt
Fresh ground Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Option 1: Put beef in a large pot with the water, oregano, cumin and salt. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until beef is fork tender. Cool, shred beef and reserve broth. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, add garlic, onions and peppers and cook until onion is soft. Add in tomatoes, shredded beef and 2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes more. Check seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Serve over yellow rice.
Option 2: Put oil in a large pot and add in garlic, onions and peppers. Cook until onions are soft. Add in beef and cook until no longer pink. Add in tomatoes, water and seasonings. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered at a simmer for 2 - 2 1/2 hours. Cool and shred the beef with your fingers. Reheat and serve over yellow rice.
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoons ground Achiote or Turmeric
2 cups rice (preferably long grain)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
Heat oil in a small pot and add Rice and Achiote or Turmeric and stir until Rice is coated in oil Stir in Chicken Broth and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to low and cover, cooking for 20 minutes. Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes before serving. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Five Element Analysis
Beef belongs to the Earth Element and the long cooking onions add to that element and this is a slow braised dish, which enhances the Earth Element even more. The spices and the rice bring in plenty of the Metal Element so that element is covered too. The red and green peppers along with the tomatoes contribute a lot of the Fire Element so that one is complete. The chicken broth and olive oil represent the Wood Element so only the Water Element needs support. So, the best way to add Water is to serve this dish with black beans as they do in Venezuela and Cuba. Then it will be a very balanced meal!