I do have a thing for braises. I just think they happen to be God’s gift to the busy home cook. Sear it and throw it in the oven (or slow cooker) and forget about it until dinner. This manner of cooking results in the cheapest cuts veritably transformed into tender chunks of meaty goodness. Hardly any skill is required to cook up something just about everybody will love.
My version is originally inspired by Hades’s favorite little Cuban place in Montclair, New Jersey. He would always order the ropa vieja: braised and shredded flank steak served with black beans and rice. In my version, I omitted the usual canned tomatoes (tomatoes aren’t in season and I didn’t can any of mine from last year) and gave it a good spice rub before searing it.
Ropa Vieja, serves four
1 pound flank steak
3 cloves garlic
zest and juice from one lime
zest from one lemon
zest from one orange
1 T comino
1 T chili powder
1 T dried oregano
1 jalapeno, deseeded and diced
1 onion, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 T ground coffee
4 c chicken or vegetable stock (homemade, preferable, water if you don’t have it)
Vegetable oil, salt and pepper
Make the rub – combine the garlic, zests and herbs and spices (up to jalapeno), 1 teaspoon salt and 15 twists of pepper and mash into a paste. Rub onto the flank steak along with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Leave to marinade as long as you’ve got time.
Heat 1 T oil in a heavy bottomed lidded pot. Sear meat until brown on both sides. Add stock, jalapenos, onions, bay, coffee and lime juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer over very low heat or place in a 275 degree oven for six hours. Or if using a slow cooker, 8 hours.
When done, shred meat, reserve some of the strained gravy and serve with black beans and rice.
Alternate Meal: After slathering the steak with the spice rub and letting it marinade for several hours. Grill the flank steak until it’s medium rare. Let it rest for 10 minutes then slice across the grain and serve with tortillas, chopped white onion and cilantro, sliced radishes, and sliced avocados. Serve with black beans.
Playlist included Somebody’s Cryin’, by Chris Isaak.
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