Monday, January 14, 2013

Rice Cooker Recipe: Ropa Vieja

There used to be this place in our village in New York that served really amazing ropa vieja. But then the owner skipped town and the restaurant closed. It turned out he was deeply in debt, and apparently he just couldn't keep up, or figure out anything else to do. And so I decided I should learn to make my own ropa vieja, to fill the void in my heart (and stomach).

Ropa vieja (literally "old clothes") is a shredded beef dish of deliciousness and Cuban origin. I made it probably 4-5 times myself, trying different recipes and not being entirely satisfied with any of them. For one thing, they were rather a lot of work, and for another, they just weren't as yummy as I wanted them to be. So I more or less resigned myself to a ropa vieja-less world.

But then Big Basket had organic bell peppers in their produce section. I bought them without any particular plan, but just because Liel likes peppers and we could all use the variety in our diet. I had a vague idea that I might cook some of the water buffalo with them and some tomatoes. And suddenly I realized: ropa vieja!

If ever there were a test for making ropa vieja on the fly, this would be it. Armed only with my trusty rice cooker, 1/2 a kilo of water buffalo, and the seasonings in my very poorly stocked Indian kitchen, I set to work.

Five hours later I had pure deliciousness. The kids said it was the best thing I'd cooked in India. They begged me to make it again. They didn't need to though; it was so good I would have made it again even if they hadn't asked!

Rice Cooker Ropa Vieja

-1 lb of water buffalo (or, if you can get it, beef!). Mine was cubed. Anything but ground would work.
- 1 large onion, sliced
- tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- two bell peppers, sliced
- tomato paste mixed with water to make tomato sauce. Or, just use tomato sauce if you have it!
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3tsp cumin
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1/2- 1 tsp pepper
- water
- splash of apple cider vinegar

(Note: this is by no means a traditional recipe. I'm missing all kinds of things that are commonly included. But it tastes great, and more importantly, it still tastes like ropa vieja. So I'm counting it!)

Put some oil in the bottom of your rice cooker. Layer the sliced onions on top of it, and then the bell peppers. Cover those with the buffalo (or beef), and the chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle the garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper on top, and then pour over the tomato saucey stuff. Add enough water to come partway up the side of the rice cooker (but don't cover the tomatoes), and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Turn your rice cooker on. Once again I used my patented "turn it to cook/turn it to warm" technique to try to approximate a lower cooking temperature, but if you have a fancy rice cooker you won't have to do that.

I did have to add more water once or twice, and I stirred it a couple of times. I let it cook for about 5 hours, and served it on rice. And at the risk of repeating myself too frequently: It was full of win!

1 comment:

Jo said...

I agree whole heartedley with your not quite getting the "use your hand method" as opposed to the t.P. method. Maybe it is our western prudishness?
I am amazed how creative you are being with your one pot rice cooker meals! Perhaps, when you get home, you should put together a cook book.:)