Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja

The slow cooker does the work breaking down flank steak into savory, tender threads in a richly spiced sauce with sweet peppers and briny olives.

Flourish separator

My latest cookbook crush is Gina Homolka and her Skinnytaste collection.  This lady can cook, AND her food keeps you fitting in your jeans.  What more can we want?  Every single recipe I’ve made so far has delivered, and some have earned a spot in my regular rotation.  She makes life easier by utilizing the air fryer, slow cooker, pressure cooker, and is big on one pot meals (my favorite kind).  

But let me tell you, she has earned my greatest admiration for this discovery involving the slow cooker: the pre-cooking of onions.  Okay, hear me out.  I have had a love/hate relationship with the slow cooker for a long time.  I love the magic it works on large cuts of meat, and I love being able to walk in the door from a long day and have dinner patiently waiting for me on the counter.  But so many times I have been disappointed with the taste.  Whenever a recipe calls for onions, the slow cooker seems to transform their essence during the cooking process.  I can’t quite put my finger on the result, but it always left a strangely overpowering bitter-raw oniony taste in my mouth.  

Gina Homolka clearly has wrestled with the same problem, because she applies this rule to all of her slow cooker recipes: onions must be cooked before adding them to the slow cooker.  Okay, I know this is another step, akin to browning meat first, but hear me out.  It makes SUCH a difference.  I’ve found that this simple step eliminates that weird taste altogether and it’s been a game changer for my slow cooker experience.  #Momlife.  It’s the little things.

So this no-fail, easy recipe has become a favorite in our house.  Ropa vieja means “old clothes” in Spanish, and the shredded beef and colorful peppers are reminiscent of what you’d see in a pile of torn rags.  Don’t let that image deter you, though!  This stew is absolutely delicious spooned over rice, noodles, or wrapped up in a warm tortilla.  Best of all, it simmers all day and leaves your kitchen smelling like Spain.  

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja

From Gina Homolka’s Skinnytaste: One & Done

1 small onion, cut in to ¼-inch thick slices

2 pounds beef flank steak, cut into 3 pieces

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 teaspoons ground cumin

Freshly ground black pepper

1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch thick slices

1 green bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch thick slices

½ cup green olives with pimientos, drained, rinsed, and quartered, plus 2 tablespoons of brine

4 garlic cloves, chopped

⅓ cup reduced-sodium beef broth

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 bay leaves

6 cups cooked warm brown rice, for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Place the onion in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 ½ to 2 minutes to soften.  

Season the meat with the salt, 2 teaspoons of the cumin, and black pepper to taste.  Transfer to a slow cooker and add the softened onion, the bell peppers, olives, and garlic.

In a small bowl, combine the olive brine, beef broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and vinegar.  Pour the mixture over the meat.  Add the bay leaves.

Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for up to 10 hours, until the meat is tender.  When ready to serve, discard the bay leaves, shred the meat in the pot with two forks, and stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin.  Scoop ¾ cup rice onto each of 8 plates, top with ¾ cup stew, and garnish with cilantro to serve. 

Slow but steady wins the race.

- Aesop

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