Eatn Ropa Vieja in Habana Cuba

Published on December 4th, 2015


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 caved.

I bought a kitchen MONSTROSITY:

An Expat's Kitchen Salvation

Close up of Slow Cooker Dial
Yes ladies and gentlemen, this lass who hyperventilates at the thought of owning a manual CAN OPENER – has totally lost it here, and gone over to the Dark Side.

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???

But seriously.

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.

Beef brisket ready to be tenderized in the slow cooker for Ropa Vieja

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.

Cuban Ropa Vieja

I also tried a gob of it for lunch wrapped in a flour tortilla:

Ropa Vieja Burrito

Cuban Black Beans
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:

Ropa Vieja ala Obama!

Ropa Vieja ala Obama
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?

About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

2 Responses to Uh-oh! More “Stuff” – Cuba What Have You Done To Me?

  1. Gail Snyder says:

    Oh my, you can do so much with that baby. Galores of recipes on the web! One of my favs, is making Italian beef for Italian beef sandwiches Chicago style in the crock pot.
    Gail Snyder kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Prime Rib, Fool ProofMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      I KNOW Sis – given my dearth of kitchen gadgets these last several years, I’m thrilled to make more than stove-top fried potatoes and scrambled eggs.

      Trust that I shall give your Chicago-style Italian beef recipe a try soon. Such delish memories from our childhoods.

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