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Braised Shredded Beef Stew with Red Beans (Ropa Vieja con Frijoles Colorados)

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Serves 4

  • by from The Latin Road Home

A quintessentially Cuban dish, ropa vieja is the epitome of meaty, rib-stickin' down-home goodness, and every Latin home cook seems to have their own version. The name means "old clothes," and it refers to how the meat, peppers, and onions resemble a multicolored pile of rags. The pressure cooker makes it possible to make this traditionally long-simmered dish on a weeknight: it expedites the cooking and makes the meat tender and the whole dish deeply flavorful.

For the braised beef
  • 4 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 lb. boneless beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 lb. thick-cut bacon, diced small
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced small
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced small
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
  • 2 Tbs. (4 to 6 cloves) Slow-Cooked Garlic
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 2 quarts beef stock 
  • 1/2 lb. dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
For the sauce
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 5 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced small
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve
  • Cooked white rice and/or fried sweet plantains
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal
Braise the beef

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. Sear it until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the bacon, onion, bell peppers, and raw and roasted garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, and vinegar and cook until the mixture is lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, seared short ribs, and kidney beans. Close and seal the pressure cooker and cook over medium-high heat for 1 hour.

Prepare an ice bath in the kitchen sink. Transfer the still-sealed pressure cooker to the ice bath and leave it to cool for 5 minutes. Lift the pressure cooker out of the ice bath, carefully unseal it, and remove the lid.

Lift the short ribs out of the cooker; the meat should be soft to the touch and fork-tender. While the meat is still hot, shred it with a fork and set aside. Measure out 1 quart (4 cups) of the braising liquid and set aside (return any beans to the pot).To finish the beans, transfer the contents of pressure cooker to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens, 18 to 20 minutes.

Make the sauce

While the short ribs finish cooking, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the mixture is caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved braising liquid and cook until reduced by about half, about 15 minutes. Add the meat and stir to incorporate. Fold in the parsley, cilantro, and tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the ropa vieja and beans with rice and plantains, garnished with scallions.

Photo: Jason Varney

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