I was planning to post a Wordless Wednesday picture of yesterday’s lunch that I carried to the office. Writing a blog a day for someone who works full-time requires a lot more pre-planning and putting together a collection of recipes/photos/articles once or twice a week to be sent out daily with the magic of “scheduled posts.” Planning has never been my thing. D planned our wedding. After a five year engagement.
So here I am typing away in the early hours before running off to Camp for the day. Yes, actual camp. The organization I work for has a camp for children on the autism spectrum and today is World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day. (Google it – you’ll find lots of organizations making people aware of the signs and symptoms of autism and working to make the world a better, more accepting, place for people on the autism spectrum. Celebrate the neuro-diversity of our world. We can’t all think alike. :-)) It’s all hands on deck for upwards of 500 people enjoying camp activities at a place designed especially for them and their families. Wordless Thursday might be in order since I don’t think I’ll be able to do much more than crawl into bed at the end of a rewarding, but tiring, day. So, forgive the typos.
Let me be up front: I now own two slow cookers. Until 6 or so years ago I did not own a single one and admit (with some shame) that I looked down on the slow cooker cooks of the world. Slow cookers have made some advancements, but the reality is that people have been slow cooking (read braising) in the oven, fire, stove-top, and then more recently with electricity, for many generations.
This recipe is too good to skip. Its a slow cooker favorite in our house. Originally based on a “Desperation Dinners” recipe by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, which I’ve adjusted to my taste and slow cooker experience. One of the main changes is that I never add additional water to recipes that already include things with tomato juices, vegetables or large amounts of meat (as well as wine or other liquids): cooking without the release of steam, as the slow cooker does, will make plenty of juices and adding water only thins out the sauce and seasonings.
Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja*
*”Ropa Vieja” translates as “old clothes” because once the beef is tender, after a long slow cooking, it is shredded into long strips making it look like cloth rags. You can look for more authentic versions of this Cuban dish online – but this one works great for an easy dinner. Its also a great way to use up a partial jar of roasted red peppers from your fridge that always seems to be leftover from a party….
2 pound flank or skirt steak – cut in half to fit into the slow cooker dish**
1, 14 oz can tomato sauce
1, 14 oz can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 Tablespoon of vinegar, red wine vinegar preferred
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (or up to 3/4 depending on the amount of salt in your tomato sauce)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 cup of roasted red peppers (or 1 fresh red bell pepper), cut into strips
1 large onion, cut into half, then into slices or strips
Mix the tomatoes, sauce, seasonings, vinegar, garlic and onions in the bottom of the slow cooker pot with half the peppers. Take the cut pieces of beef and dredge them though the sauce to get some of the sauce and seasonings on them or scoop some of the sauce over the beef as you lay them in the pot. Top with the remaining pepper slices. Its ok for the beef to overlap. Cook on low for 7.5 hours until the beef is tender and can be shredded with a fork. And you will need to shred it: use two forks pressed into the meat and pull in separate directions. If the meat is too tough to shred easily, you may need to cook for an additional hour. Thicken if needed, but I prefer it as is.
**You could use a thicker cut like a pot roast meat (chuck or sirloin) but it may take a bit longer to become tender. Those cuts have more fat, so you may need to skim it off when it is finished cooking or cool overnight and remove the hardened fat the next day.
Serve with cooked rice or, in the case of the picture above, smashed cauliflower.