Ropa Vieja My Way

February 26, 2015 | Posted by Elyse Tirrell

Comfort food at my parents' house hits notes of Spain or Latin America on the regular. My sister and I were exposed to the food and customs of Spanish speaking countries our entire lives, thanks to a mom and dad who spent much of their careers teaching Spanish to high school students. Their passion for these cultures certainly rubbed off! For February's theme of comfort food, I decided to play with one of my dad's favorite Latin recipes and make it my own.

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One of my dad's specialties has always been Ropa Vieja, a popular Cuban dish made with shredded beef. The name translates to "old clothes" or "rags," so called because of the way the meat -- typically flank or skirt steak -- is shredded. It's served in a thick, tomato-based sauce packed with Cuban flavors and ingredients like cumin, oregano, yellow and green peppers, garlic, Spanish onion, etc. Delicioso!

I decided to play around with my dad's traditional recipe to create my own updated, extra-flavorful version by adding in several components from another popular Cuban dish: picadillo. I borrowed the picadillo's sliced olives, golden raisins and capers and added them to the ropa towards the very end of the cooking process. I added a poblano pepper for a touch of heat, too.

Traditionally the ropa is served with rice and beans, but I went all out and stuffed it into homemade arepas, sprinkled with cotija cheese and fresh cilantro. And there you have it: Ropa-Dillo Arepas! Now that's what I call comfort food.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for introducing me to these incredible flavors as a child. This one is for you!