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Ropa Vieja : adapted from Norman Van Aken’s recipe

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

Ages ago I attended a wine dinner cooked by noted Miami restaurateur Norman Van Aken. The main course was his version of the traditional Cuban/Spanish dish Ropa Vieja – and it was a memorable experience. His vision was to upscale the comfort and to make new beloved favorites.

Ropa Vieja literally means old clothes. The idea is that the shreds and tatters of beef resemble shredded clothing. I only attempt this dish in the summer when corn is fresh and sweet. It works well for a dinner party of four to eight. The toughest part is getting the hash perfectly cooked with browned edges. I parboiled cubed sweet potatoes and then air dried them. Then I roasted them in a hot oven for about twenty minutes adding the corn at the last of the cooking. I also added a tiny dice of red bell pepper to add color. You could alternately add a finely chopped piquillo pepper or some roasted red peppers.

The beef itself can be made a day ahead. You reheat the sauce and then add the cold beef to warm it through. It develops even deeper flavor as it sits longer. The poached eggs as well can be done ahead and dropped into an ice bath and then refrigerated.

Last night I attempted this version of Van Aken’s Ropa Vieja recipe from New World Kitchen. The NWK version is simpler but lacks some of the nuances to make more layers of flavor. A construct of slowly roasted beef shredded into a sauce and served over a hash of fresh corn and sweet potatoes then topped with a poached egg.

To get the poached egg right I used Alton Brown’s skillet method.

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