Published on December 4th, 20152
Uh-oh! More “Stuff” – Cuba What Have You Done To Me?
I admit it – since I sold most every blessed possession in favor of traveling the globe with but a backpack and a rollie – I rather pride myself on my minimalist “footprint”. Not so much because I think owning but 2 pairs of shoes and living in furnished apartments is somehow noble, but because – honestly? Until you’ve tried it, you simply can’t imagine the blissful feeling of F-R-E-E-D-O-M that paring down all that “stuff” provides.
Nonetheless, I have a confession. After more than 4 years with either no kitchen whatsoever, else one without an oven and only the barest of cooking gadgets…
I bought a kitchen MONSTROSITY:
Shoot, this bundle of electronic E-V-I-L has no less than *4* temperature controls!!!
Geez, what next, Dyanne – a pool table and a 90″ flat-screen TV???
Though I admit that owning such a huge kitchen gadget makes my nomadic-minimalist tummy a bit queasy – surely I can sell it (or even just dump it, as it was on sale at just $38) should I suddenly decide to pack up the rollie and head to some new foreign land, yes?
And besides, blame it all on Cuba for my slide into the gadget-ghetto – I needed a slow-cooker to make one of the most traditional Cuban dishes:
ROPA VIEJA (loosely translated: “Old Clothes”)
I enjoyed Ropa Vieja several times while roaming around Cuba – a succulent mix of shredded beef, garlic, bell peppers, onion and spices slowly simmered til the beef verily melts in your mouth. And given that I don’t have an oven, it was tenderizing the beef that required my slither down the “more stuff” rabbit-hole.
My first dilemma with making the Ropa Vieja however, was getting my hands on the proper cut of beef. Recipes called for everything from flank steak to chuck roast to brisket – none of which translated well into Spanish at my local mercado. But fortunately, most folks here in Ecuador are familiar with the Cuban dish, so all I had to do was mention “carne para ropa vieja”, and I was swiftly handed a nice chunk of beef.
Given that I’ve not used a crockpot in years, I admit I accidentally set it on “high” instead of “low” for about 5 hours (oops!) So by the time I noticed my mistake, the beef was a little uh, on the dry side. Nonetheless, it shredded easily, and once mixed with the delectable sauce, my first Ropa Vieja turned out most delicious.
I also tried a gob of it for lunch wrapped in a flour tortilla:
Encouraged by my initial success with the slow-cooked Ropa Vieja, I next tried cooking a Cuban Black Bean concoction as a side dish.
And Taa-daaa! The final presentation (with rice, lime and avocado garnish) of my new signature dish:
Note my coveted “Obama sniffing a Cuban cigar” fridge magnet that I bought with the last of my Cuban pesos at the Havana airport.
P.S. All which is to say…
So gimme a break – even we nomadic minimalists need a new kitchen gadget every once in awhile, no?