Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ropa Vieja Chicken or Beef

Ropa Vieja

Chicken or Beef

Daniel and Sam had gone to visit my Mom in Texas. She made them supper, from a recipe she found in a magazine. It was called Ropa Vieja, which in Cuban Spanish means "Old Clothes". This is due to the final appearance of the dish. It resembles a pile of rags. The twins liked her recipe so much, they asked me to make it. When I called Mom for the recipe, she couldn't find the right magazine, and suggested I just look online for it.
Seems there are dozens, if not hundreds of Ropa Vieja recipes out there. The one I used was wildly different than the one Mom made for the boys. I was reluctant to jump into the highly improbable combination of spices, so didn't add as much of some of the spices in the recipe I started with called for. I have never been a green olive fan, so left them out the first (couple) of times I made the recipe. I tried making it from memory the next time, and added "wrong" spices... which still turned out even better than before. I braved up and added the olives- and oh my! Just trust me on this, they add such a depth of flavor!
It seems like there are a LOT of ingredients in this dish... but they are mostly spices. Line them up and don't be afraid of them. You can add less of the ones you are thinking- NO WAY Does THAT belong in a Savory Food.... but once you become addicted to the flavors going on here, you will add a bit more next time!

The first eight or so times I made this, I used  a beef roast. You want the long, stringy bits to make the finished dish look like a pile of rags. In a bind one night, with guests at hand, I substituted chicken for beef. Mr C and I found we like it even better with chicken, and we like it a LOT with beef!

You need:
Roast Or Chicken (I am using boneless, skinless thighs tonight)
canned diced tomatoes (I used a pint of home canned. You can use fresh if you have them )
tomato paste (Don't ask me why one needs to paste the tomatoes back together after they are diced!)
Rotel style  tomatoes (or leave out if you don't like it as spicy)
a carrot
a celery rib
colorful bell peppers (I use at least 1 1/2 to 2 red, orange, and /or yellow) Green if you like them.
onions (I use at least two large, because we LIKE onion)
Kalamari Olives (I use 1/2- 1 cup, depending on how many I am feeding)
Capers (About 2 TBS +/-)
chicken broth (has better depth of flavor, even if you use roast) (1 1/2 - 2 Cups)
white wine 1/2 cup (for the pot, more for yourself!)
1 or 2 bay leaf
1/4-1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg (I grated mine fresh)
1/4 tsp ground allspice (I ground 6 or 7 whole dried berries)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 to 1 tsp smoked paprika (I love the smoked, family not so much)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp paprika (Double if not adding smoked paprika as well)
1 (+) TBS minced garlic
1-5 dried cayenne peppers (or red pepper flakes, you decide how spicy)
1/2 to 1tsp ground cinnamon
1/4- 1/2 tsp caraway seed (if you like them)
1 tsp. salt +/-
In a heavy skillet, sear the meat in a small amount of oil.  
Transfer to a slow cooker.
Add the spices, tomato products, broth, celery rib and carrot. (The celery and carrot cook away into the broth for flavor and are NOT meant to remain recognizable.)
Allow to cook several hours
In same skillet (or dirty up another pan if you like!) add the onions and bell peppers. I slice the onions and peppers in half, then into long strips. I saute them until beautifully browned. 
Add to slow cooker. Add the wine, olives+ 1-2 TBS of olive brine, drained capers.

Allow to cook at least another 45 minutes. Taste test, adding salt as needed. The meat should be falling apart. Use forks to shred into the broth.
*Discard bay leaf before serving. Bay leaf is a choking hazard.*

Serve with black beans and rice.

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