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Ropa Vieja: Cuban Shredded Beef

Ropa vieja: Cuban shredded beef

I won't pussyfoot around it: I'm royally pissed about Prop 8. I'm pissed that that many people in the state of California are so blinded by religious doctrine. I'm pissed that they're so impressionable and prone to accepting blatant lies as truth. I'm pissed that barely 50% of registered voters in San Francisco bothered to give a damn. And I'm pissed that more people are concerned about the well-being of chickens destined for our plates than in the fundamental rights of actual human beings living in this state. (Mind you, I did vote for the chickens, too!)

But what really stuck in my craw most of all was the surprise. I sincerely believed that this whole elimination-of-human-rights thing would all blow over, that people would see reason and be able to make rational decisions. And above all, I was surprised at how powerful the emotional impact was. It's one thing to live your life without a fundamental right. It's not appropriate or just, but you just sort of accept it. However, it is altogether another matter to have something given, then abruptly taken away. I can tell you now, having fought back tears of rage all day on November 5, I understand prejudice in an entirely new light as of now. I want to say it left me speechless, but that is clearly not the case.

Hey, you know who else used to have rights, then had them unjustly taken away? Cubans! (You like the segueway? Didja see that coming?) Yes, like the gays, Cubans once had a swingin' good time until a group of radical asshats spoiled the party. Like the gays, Cubans have a penchant for soulful music and refreshing cocktails. Unlike the gays, Cubans have retained a rich culinary heritage that remains unspoiled in the era of carb-Nazism.

Perhaps the quintessential Cuban main is ropa vieja, strips of beef cooked with peppers until tender, then shredded. The name translates to "old clothes," referring to the rag-like texture of the broken-down meat. 

My fabulous friend David has fabulous Cuban parents. How fabulous? Well, his mother is an opera diva, for starters, and his father is by all accounts a very good cook. It's through him that I learned of the Taste of Cuba website, which he mines for recipes from their homeland. I used their ropa vieja recipe as the foundation for my adaptation. 

It's not a pretty dish, but it is very much a tasty one. It's also
super easy. Best of all, it's another excellent candidate for our new
favorite toy, the pressure cooker. (Though it's equally well suited to the slow cooker or just on the stovetop.) Enjoy it with some Spanish rice, washed down with a nice Cuba Libre, or whatever libation you require to soothe the wounds of injustice.

Ropa vieja
Adapted from Taste of Cuba

The original recipe calls for green bell peppers, but many people don't care for them. You can replace them with red bell peppers, but the flavor will be much more mild. I like to use both to get a balance between the sweetness of the red and the pungency of the green. The remaining halves of each pepper I use for the sofrito, below.

2-1/2 lbs flank steak, cut into 2" long strips
1 onion, diced
1 green and/or red bell pepper, diced
8 oz tomato puree
1 c. water or stock
1 to 2 tsp cumin or adobo
1/4 c. sofrito (see below)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Brown the meat in olive oil in the cooking pot of the pressure cooker. Remove and set aside. Cook the onions, garlic and peppers in the same pot until translucent. Add the sofrito and cook a minute or two longer. Add the browned meat, along with any juices that may have come out, the cumin, salt and pepper, water and tomato puree. (I also threw in some braised greens I had on hand.) Put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Allow the pressure to come down naturally; do not quick-release. With tongs or forks, pull the strips of meat to shred them; they should come apart easily. Serve with Spanish rice.


Sofrito is a base used in Cuban and many other cuisines. Like the French mirepoix, it's a simple combination of common vegetables, but the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Make extra, and keep it in the fridge in a jar with a thin float of oil on top, and scoop out as needed for soups, sauces, braises … anything. 

Taste of Cuba's recipe is very traditional and satisfying, but if you don't want to go through quite so much effort, simply combine two parts onion to one part each peppers and tomato plus a few cloves of garlic in a blender or food processor until broken down into a paste, then season to taste with salt, pepper, cumin or adobo and oregano. Sauté the sofrito before braising to remove raw onion and pepper flavors, which may overwhelm your dish.

Ropa Vieja on Foodista

This Post Has 29 Comments
  1. gggrr. yes, it's truly infuriating. but although it's very little consolation, at least you made a great post out of it

  2. I had a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach yesterday. It's just terrible. I'm amazed at the hypocrisy of those who didn't vote on this issue (or worse, voted for it!) in this so-called liberal Bay Area.

    My sympathies are with you. Let's hope this horrible injustice is rectified immediately.

  3. Every person in San Francisco who didn't vote should be ashamed. I wish I could have voted against it.

    Another great sounding pressure cooker recipe!

  4. I'm so sorry, its really sad. When you look at how close the vote was in San Diego it makes me sad. I truly believe that people got confused by the adverts and the crazy lies that the 'yes' people were spreading.

    The urban parts were filled with 'no' posters but as soon as you headed a little bit east then all the 'yes' posters and campaigns started.

    Hopefully the courts deem this to be illegal and we can move on.

  5. I think all the closet discriminators need to come out and face the music! The passage of Prop. 8 wasn't about the definition of marriage but about how many in our society still feel uncomfortable of gays being together. We're OK if we live alone and decorate and do people's hair, but once we want love and family, then that's too much to imagine. Very sad. We all need to make this ropa viejo dish as comfort food to tie us over the many protests which will have to happen to wake people up.

  6. Thanks all for the support on Prop 8. Reason will prevail, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon! The road to justice is not linear.

  7. I was shocked and also outraged myself. I am no longer in CA and couldn't add my no vote, but would have if I could have. This is a civil rights issue and I think we just have to remember that when a particular prejudice has been acceptable for a very long time it takes a lot of work to turn it around. Just keep at it, we'll see change but it will take more time.

    I'm so sorry too for how it affects you personally.

    Anyway, you have a gorgeous blog. I liked the segueway.

  8. oh my gosh!!!! If you want to be gay, go right ahead and be gay. Why do you have to get married. Marriage is and hopefully always will be between a man and a woman the way God ordained it to be. I love you and your passion and it’s your choice to be gay if you want but leave marriage out of it and have some kind of civil union so you can have the tax break or benefit or acceptance that you are a couple if that is the motive. Read your Bible and see what God says about it. Hopefully you are a believer. God is the one who made the rule. Thats what we should go by. God bless you.

  9. Oh my gosh! If you want to be intolerant, go right ahead, but please do it in your own home and not on my blog. Kthxbai.

  10. WHOSE God gets to decide what is right for all of us, exactly, Diane? Please don’t give me any crap about there only being “one true God,” because I am certain there are people of many other faiths out there who would not appreciate having their beliefs invalidated.
    Seriously, take your hate elsewhere. This is a civil rights issue.

  11. I came to this site for a recipe and found your blog. Imagine my surprise!!! How can there be more than one God jenblossom? Then they all would invalidate each other. There is only one God, otherwise there would have been no reason for Jesus Christ to go to the cross, and He did, for you Jen out of His great love!!! Why don’t you find the Truth out and start with John 3:16.
    Your views on being gay are clearly not a civil right that demands government intervention but a social right! And it is funny how all of you people can state your case and your beliefs but no one else with a different view can write in on this blog. Talk about it. What is your motive to get married? And Michael, If you are an atheist, I am sorry for you. This is not about hate. And you are the intolerant one, not me, when u say i can’t even state my view on this issue but you can scream about it on your comment. Shame on you!!! I am done…. This posting is done in love not hate. Some day we will all know the Truth. I hope you find it before you leave this world. The Bible says many will be led astray. I hope you won’t be one of them.
    I will not be posting on this any more so you can all ponder this together. God Bless you all. Amen

  12. Diane, in America we are entitled to freedom of religion and separation of church and state. In that spirit, I have the right not to believe in your god; and should have the right to have my marriage be considered for legal validity in absence of the influence of religious moral definitions. Marriage in the governmental sense is a legal contract between two individuals, and not a mandate by a higher power.
    Athiests do not need your pity. I feel that the universe is sufficiently wondrous not to require the presence of a god to explain it. It’s beautiful as it is.

  13. I love the “explanation” that if there were more than one god, they would invalidate each other. Hmmm…
    Also, Diane if your argument really is that gay people should not be allowed (by the government) to get married because of religion – then you’ve just argued your way right out of constitutionality. Marriage isn’t a religious institution, it’s a legal contract. Remember separation of church and state? In this country we don’t allow civil rights to be decided on the basis of religious teachings – thank goodness!

  14. Do not be sorry for me, Diane. I am in fact sorry for you, that you are benighted by Stone Age beliefs, that what you call “love” is really and truly hate, and that you don’t see the irony in using your religion as a club by which to deny others’ rights.
    If you have the imagination for this, think about a world in which your own marriage is dissolved by zealots who think your religion is inferior and your god a false idol. If you can even shudder at the thought of such a world, then you should also stop and remember the words “Do unto others…” before you try to deny Sean his rights.

  15. Great recipe.
    Sorry to read the very narrow interpretation of Christianity and of God. I’m a churchlady, but Diane’s comments make me wanna be a closet Christian.
    Just wanted to let you know that there are communities of faith who are fighting for inclusivity. We have a diverse congregation which includes people of all colors and ages, as well as several gay people in leadership roles. We totally respect other viewpoints in faith, and everybody is made to feel welcome.
    Personally speaking, as long as I love others the way I experience God’s love, it keeps all the other commandments in check. It includes being respectful of other people’s thoughts and feelings. That way, even if you don’t believe in God (or my version of God), the way I choose to practice my faith should never harm or offend you.
    Wishing you nothing but good things!
    I hope that cleanses your palette for people of faith!

  16. Beena, thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. Though I am not religious myself, I do not begrudge anyone their faith; I think faith is a powerful and important thing for many people. But when it is used as a weapon, it strays from its original intent. You, however, are a true Christian, spreading true love in the way it was meant to be. And I thank you for that.

  17. Sean, great post!
    Diane, no one chooses to be gay. Would you? Would you like to receive the kind of comments you left on your blog because of your skin color, eye color, etc? Would you like to be subject to hatred from organized religious groups? Would you like to be ostracized in school because you are different? Yeah, lets all sign up, sounds great.
    Organized religion is the most dangerous and arrogant creation that has ever existed on this planet. It is a hate propagator. It has been the basis for all wars.
    Please, please, do some research on your own and learn to think for yourself. Give Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Socrates, Deepak Chopra, Plato and others with differing points of view a chance. If this is too daunting, spend 90 minutes and rent Bill Mahr’s “Religulous”.
    Isn’t your Jesus suppose to love? Christians such as yourself, can be the most closed-minded, hateful people on this planet.
    Please read the books before you burn them.

  18. “You people”…LOL. Oh no she didn’t.
    It may be no surprise to you Sean, but Christians have never handled issues regarding sexuality very well.
    A lot of this has to do with the modern practice of taking literally the social practices of the communities who wrote the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. What many people like Dianne do not consider is that, even today, the conservatives within the faith have discarded practices that were common in the bible that are at odds with how we see what is just and injust in today’s society.
    We do not sentence to death disobedient children or farmers who plant more than one crop in each field. We do not believe (with the exception of the Fundamentalist Mormons) that slavery, polygamy, or the subservience of women is justified. And yet, all of these things are found in the bible and practiced by the biblical patriarchs.
    The Christian tradition is a living tradition that is constantly changing. To be a literalist these days requires a conscious decision to do so. But looking at how the early Christian community (which was predominantly Jewish) understood the world, there was no such thing as conscious literalism.
    To them, the world and God was a great and wonderful mystery.
    To many Christians like myself, it still is.

  19. Rhonda,
    While I agree that Diane’s point of view was narrow and intolerant, I think it’s important to refute these things respectfully. I didn’t have a problem with anything in YOUR response, but you suggested that she rent “Religulous”. To be fair, Bill Mahr was a total jerk in that movie. He was extremley disrespectful and intolerant.
    I like it when people point out ridiculous, archaic ideas. But Bill Mahr was just an ass about it.

  20. Beena;
    I agree with you 100%.
    Bill Mahr is entertainment driven and has to be extreme to gain the same air time as those he disagrees with. In this vein, he may be perceived as arrogant and disrespectful but perhaps no more so than the other preachers of varying faiths who infiltrate our television airways on a daily basis.
    Do not worry. Diane will not be renting this film, she will not be reading philosophy, history and economics. In fact, she may not ever read this blog again.
    I love the fact that you are a Churchlady and are spreading love the way it was meant to be. I completely agree! We should love respect and be grateful for each other.

  21. Been a bit since I checked out your site. Again this was not about hate. I don’t hate anyone because they are gay. I do believe though, that the Word of God stands true. He is the same today as He was yesterday and will be in the future and He loves you, Gay and all!!! He is the author of this life and it is a short life. I am not telling you how to live your life and if I knew you I’m sure I would just love you. I apologize if you have been offended, but I stand firm on “marriage is between a man and a woman” because it is what God said. I didn’t make the rule. I just believe what the Man, The Great I AM said.
    Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said ” It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
    Gen;2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”
    I do not condemn you, Some churches that have changed what the Word says will be held accountable. That too is what the Bible says, not what I say. I am not intolerant, I am not called to judge you , I just disagree. Call it anything else but a marriage. I do wish you well and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that some day I hope you will come to know the Lord our God and the Truth. God bless you all. I mean it too!

  22. Where you miss the point, Diane, is that by our constitution, religion and law are forever divided. I do not begrudge you your right to your faith, which is also constitutionally guaranteed. But just as you are free to worship the Christian god, all of us are free to pursue our individual beliefs. By that token, religion necessarily cannot be used to influence law, since there is nearly no legal matter upon which all religions can universally agree.
    The word marriage is just that — a word. And as all words, it may and will have a different definition depending on its context. Through the Judeo-Christian religious definition, it may mean a union between a man and a woman, fine. But in the eyes of the law, absent of any religious influence, it can and, by our arguments, should be broadened to include the right for any two people to engage in a contract that binds them legally.
    Any case where the law expressly excludes any individual or group of individuals is, plainly, discrimination. What if the roles were reversed? What if your state ruled that only same-sex couples could be married, and that mixed-gender couples were lesser in the eyes of the law?
    The only alternative would be to abolish marriage as a legal institution, and have all couples, gay or straight, be domestic partnerships or civil unions or whatever you want to call it. As long as it’s equal.
    I will not ask your church or your priest to marry me and my husband. But I will ask my government to do so.

  23. It amazes me how people use “God” or their faith to mask their fears or acceptance. I know God, even though I am not a Church lady… and as you will know, God is all loving. He is not a spiteful or revengeful God, and wants only for us to live in his good graces. Mind you, by me saying this… may I tell you that I do not go to church; I do not devote Sunday to worshiping a holy power.
    I believe that God would still love me if I loved another woman, as he would love me if I loved a man. As long as it was a unity of mind, body and soul.
    Diane- step out from behind the bible long enough to see the big picture. Go beyond the text on the page, and imagine a world with more people loving each other, and NOT discriminating people because it doesn’t fit into your neat little ideal of a biblical package.

  24. 70% of black california voters voted in favor of prop 8.
    49% of Asians and 53% of latinos as well.
    which makes you angrier or more frightened, people voting against gay marriage or Obama trying to get the first amendment repealed, and endorsing a UN resolution to criminalize ‘criticism of religion’, you know, ‘islam’. Don’t get mad at Christians, they might not favor gay marriage, but under Sharia law, homosexuality is a capital crime – of which many teenage boys have been publicly and ‘legally’ executed in islamic countries. Meanwhile, in Iraq, earlier in 2012 no less than 70 teenage boys were brutally murdered for dressing ’emo style’ with those haircuts that sweep down over your eyes, etc. Because EMO is from the devil and the boys were probably gay.
    Time for people to think GLOBALLY because that is what America and Europe is being pressured to do. Become GLOBAL havens, ‘tolerance’ of even violent and oppressive attitudes is being enforced, even LEGALLY enforced in Europe. I.E. you complain about muslims gang raping Swedish women almost to death, and frequently – YOU can go to jail – to government assures us that it’s not really happening. Women in high immigrant muslim areas are NOT really dying their hair black and wearing baggy clothing to avoid sexual assault, and besides, we are multicultural now and we HAVE to accept that, so what’s the big deal ‘women’ you have with changing the way you dress to not offend muslim. Whats wrong with wearing a scarf? It’s no big deal. (these are only slightly paraphrased REAL comments made by female college professors and politicians in Sweden) In the meantime, highly respected muslim imams go on public radio and publicly state ”it is better to rape Swedish women, because they have probably already (F–ked) before ANYWAY and it’s much more important for Muslim girls to be virgins when WE marry THEM. They also, in a statement, referred to swedish women as ””swedish whores, oh HAHA, I mean WOMEN”” that is an exact quote from a radio program where a leading muslim was discussing the relationship between muslims and swedes. That was where he said swedish women were good for F–k but not good enough for marriage.
    THINK GLOBALLY, get priorities straight. Stop worrying about whether or not gay people can get married and blaming christians, and turn around and see the 14 year old boys hanging by their necks from cranes in Iran, and ask yourself where all this ‘removal of criticism of religion’ is leading. In Sweden ONLY atheists and christians who complain about islam are EVER arrested. YES, WE GET ARRESTED FOR PERSONAL OPINIONS IN SWEDEN, but only if they are against immigration or islam. Muslims hold rallies and speeches with large crowds screaming hatred against swedes, gays and christians (most swedes are atheists)and they are allowed to do so without problems, arrests, or complaints. In Sweden gay people can file couples registration and have the same rights as married people, as can straight couples who just live together.
    Freedom of speech and thought is the most important fundamental right we have, whether we all agree on the issues the same or not. Islam is incompatible with freedom.

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