Category Archives: beef

Cuban Ropa Veija: Shredded Veal or Beef Recipe

One of the interesting ways to give your braised veal (beef) leftovers a new life is to turn it into another great dish, Ropa Vieja. It is a traditional Cuban beef stew, which look resembles a pile of old clothes (hence, the name Ropa Vieja). The initial version of ropa vieja contained leftovers of meat and originated from Canary Islands, Spain, like many other Caribbean dishes at the times of colonialization.

The legend goes: there was once an old man who was so poor he could not buy enough food to make a family dinner, so he decided to collect the old clothes (ropa vieja), fill them with his love and cook. When he cooked the clothes, his love has turned them into a wonderful stew.

During one of our trips to Cuba, we decided to try the authentic dish in one of the picturesque colonial houses of the old town of San Juan de losRemedios. It was so tasty, I had to take notes of the recipe from the chef (see the end of this post), however this twist on the leftovers of the braised veal shoulder blade will give you an idea why is it worth trying.
Not only the dish is savory and memorable, it’s a great way to feed a big party on a budget. This traditional Cuban dish will be especially tasty if you allow the seasonings to blend for a day after making. Plus, it is a very economical way to approach your protein consumption: you get just enough of it with the meal without adding any extra to your belly fat (sorry, I have been following the course on Nutrition and Prevention of Diseases lately, so I have a re-current nightmare of visceral fat slapping my face). The following are steps on how to turn your meat leftovers into Ropa Vieja. Shred the cooked meat with two forks; sautee one chopped green pepper, with onions and garlic; add the meat, tomato coulis, wine, dash of cumin and freshly ground pepper. 
Just simmer on the low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring often and serve with rice and black beans. 
I will definitely return to our adventures in Cuba in some other post, but, for now, here is the recipe from chef Lupe, who served us an unforgettable Ropa Vieja in Remedios.
2 ½ lbs flank or swiss steak, cut in strips
5 tablespoons cooking oil (olive or other)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 cups tomato sauce (or coulis)
1 cup water
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat 3 tablespoon of oil in the Dutch oven on medium and brown the meat on all sides. Remove the meat and put aside. Add the remaining oil, stir in onion, garlic and green pepper and cook until translucent. Return the meat to the Dutch oven, add tomato sauce, water, wine, cumin, pepper and salt. Bring to boil and simmer on a slow heat until meat is tender and shreds easily, for about 2 1/2 hours. Serve with rice and black beans, or in tortillas. Add some sour cream, cheese and fresh cilantro on the side.

Veal Shoulder Blade Roast with Porcini

One of the specialties we brought from the Miboulay farm, was the veal shoulder blade, so I started looking  for the recipe. Unable to find any that would please me to 100%, I decided to apply the one I have been using for the beef shoulder blade for years. This one never fails to surprise. Its festive and decadent, and you can cook the roast up to two days in advance and then just put it back in the oven to heat. 

This roast is definitely a part of the cooking tradition known as la cuisine ”grand-mère” (grandmother’s cooking) for its simple ingredients and long cooking to ensure tender and flavorful meat. Today I am featuring it with polenta (the recipe will follow) turning it Italian way. However, mashed/new potatoes, cauliflower or just sautéed greens make excellent side dishes to this roast as well.

You can use a boneless chuck roast bringing the recipe very close to the first part of an Italian staple of ”vitello tonnato”, which I will surely post one day. But that is for the summer. In minus 25 degrees C we want this roast hot and steamy. I prefer the shoulder blade for the bones and that collagen that makes the cooked meat so much tastier. During the slow cooking process it melts and turns into gelatine, the umami factor of the dish. The bones give lots of gelatine too as well as a strong meaty taste to the broth.

Browning the roast before you braise it is important to seal the juices in the meat and thus add more flavor to the dish. Even though that means another dirty pan the difference in taste is well worth the cleanup. The slow cooking part should not discourage you from making this dish, as the steps are easy and ingredients are no-brainer for even a beginner cook. Not only you will enjoy it, but will have plenty of time to make a great side course or salad and do many other little chores while your place will be filled with the divine smell of roasting veal and porcini.

When served hot with polenta, this veal roast pairs beautifully with a glass of Blaye (Côtes de Bordeaux), such as reasonably priced 2009 Château des Tourtes Rouge.


1 handful of dried porcini
2 cups of boiled water (to soak porcini)
1 milk-fed veal (or beef) shoulder blade (1.5 to 4 lbs)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 table spoon olive oil
1 garlic bulb sliced in half
2 yellow onions thinly sliced
1 bouquet garni (parsley (6), bay leaf (1) and thyme (3) tied with kitchen twine)
1 cup dry white wine (or  1 cup apple cider vinegar mixed with water 50/50)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Boil 2 cups of water and soak the dried porcini in it for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, rub the milk-fed veal roast with the salt and pepper.
In a Dutch oven (or heavy pan) warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the roast and sear on both sides turning once for about 6 minutes in total. Add the garlic bulb to the pan roasting pan for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the roast and garlic bulb to a platter.
Add the onions to the pot and cook stirring for 1 minute. Gradually pour in the wine and deglaze the pot scraping the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the strained soaking liquid from porcini and bouquet garni, return meat and garlic to the pot and scatter reconstituted porcini over the roast. Cover with aluminum foil and lid and put in the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 325°Fafter first 30 minutes of cooking. Cook for about 3 hours in total or until the meat is tender.
Let the veal roast stand for 10 minutes, then discard bones, garlic and bouquet garni and carve crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Serve hot with pasta or polenta, top with porcini and spoon with the braising sauce.
OR , cool down the roast and keep it in the fridge until next day to assemble the cold veal canapés as an appetizer and to use the leftovers for yet another dish (see the next post).