Shalom Life | April 23, 2014

The Best Kosher Cuban Recipe We've Ever Tried

Bring the taste of Cuba into your kitchen with Ropa Vieja.

By: Nelly Lalany

Published: May 31st, 2011 in Culture » Food » Recipes

The Best Kosher Cuban Recipe We've Ever Tried

Having visited Cuba a few times, something that always stuck out like a sore thumb was the quality of the food. Most fellow travellers to this beautiful country with its rich history and lively culture would probably agree that the food is usually sub-par. For me, the problem lies in the dishes considered "fusion cuisine." I always wonder -- why not stick to what you know?

While travelling in Ecuador, I discovered a Cuban restaurant which was famous for the dish, “Ropa Vieja.” I decided to be adventurous and try it, and I'm glad I did -- it was divine. I returned to Cuba knowing a specific native food, which happened to be the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in that country.

For those of you who plan to travel to Cuba in the near future, I’d like to proudly announce that this dish is Kosher and follows the laws of Kashrut. In fact, this Caribbean paradise boasts a humble population of Cuban Jews and the dish has become very popular with its benefit of being a kosher meal.

It’s said that the first Jews appeared in Cuba in 1492 after the expulsion from Spain. According to legend, there were three Jews aboard Christopher Columbus’s mission who were Marranos (forced converts to Catholicism). Later during the 16th and 17th centuries, Brazilians were fleeing to Cuba to avoid the Portuguese persecutions occurring at the time. Others came to Cuba as a stop over towards the United States, and a number of them stayed to form a congregation in Havana in 1904. Shortly after, they became an integral part of sugar cane and tobacco trade.

Naturally, after Fidel Castro turned Cuba into one of the world’s most infamous governments, Jewish business owners suffered financially along with the rest of the populations. In fact, approximately 94% of the Cuban Jewish population fled after the revolution made its mark by seizing the wealth of the middle class. Those who stayed were either too old or too poor to travel, and Havana remained their home.

Cuban Jewish food holds fast to the laws of Kashrut. You can find the recipe for the famous dish “Ropa Vieja” (meaning old clothes) below.

In the spirit of celebrating brothers and sisters in a spicy Latin country, try cooking something new with a Cuban twist!

FYI, if you type “Cuban comfort food” into your Google search bar you will find other variations of this recipe. Mine comes from the Food Network, enjoy!

Ingredients

4 pounds skirt steak or flank steak

4 medium onions, coarsely chopped and separated into 2 parts

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 jalapenos, minced

2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon salt

10 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped or 2 cans chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions

In a large stock pot, put in the meat, 2 chopped onions, carrot, celery and bay leaf. Cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

When meat is very tender, turn off heat and let meat cool in liquid for 20 min, remove from broth. Set aside. Discard vegetables and strain broth through a sieve. Return broth to heat, and boil to reduce by half, about 20 to 30 min. When meat is cool, cut off any fat and pull into shreds about 2 inches wide.

While broth is reducing, heat oil in a large skillet. Over medium heat, cook the remaining half of the onions, garlic, jalapenos, green peppers and 1 tablespoon salt until softened, about 10 min. Stir in 1 tablespoon of salt.

Stir in 3 cups reduced broth and tomatoes. Cook for 10 min over medium heat. Stir in shredded meat, parsley, oregano and cumin. Cook 10 more minutes.

Serve with white rice.

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