Sunday, March 8, 2009

Recession: Party of One - Ropa Vieja and Saffron Rice

I have a feeling that my Ropa Vieja on a budget will have Cuban abuelas rolling over in their graves from here to Havana. It's certainly not what you'd call traditional. But after a little research on what exactly ropa vieja entails (it's not much more than beef roast, tomato paste, and a little olive oil), I realized I had on hand some form of all the key ingredients.

Ropa Vieja, to the uninitialted, means "old clothes" in Spanish, and it's a traditional Cuban dish made with slow-roasted beef, served most of the time over rice. I FINALLY found my precious jar of saffron hiding in the back corners of my spice cabinet, so I made some savory saffron rice to go with it.

I can't wait to give you the Party of One Price Index breakdown!

INGREDIENTS (note: this is how I made it; if you want a traditional recipe, head to Google)

1 chunk very lean roasting beef (I'm guessing mine was about 1/2 pound); I used top round roast
1 can stewed tomatoes (that means cooked with onions and green peppers)
1 glug olive oil
a couple hefty shakes of oregano
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled, but left whole
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper to taste (you could use red pepper flakes or even Tabasco)

1/2 c. dry wild rice blend
1 c. chicken broth
pinch saffron
juice of 1/2 a lime
salt and pepper
pat of butter

fresh or frozen broccoli florets
minced orange bell pepper (optional; for garnish)


Put the beef, tomatoes (with all the juice), olive oil, oregano, cayenne pepper, and garlic into a CrockPot. Set on low, and cook for 6-8 hours. After the beef has been cooking for about 4 hours, remove it from the liquid and cut it into smaller chunks. After it has cooked for about another hour and a half after that, remove the pieces again and pull apart (going with the grain of the meat) with two forks (see photo). Return to CrockPot. With a wooden spoon or whatever you have on hand, smash the tomatoes that have remained in larger pieces, until the meat is basically in a chunky tomato sauce. Cook for about another half hour. Fish out the larger garlic chunks before serving.


Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the rice. Stir in the saffron, cover, and bring it down to a simmer. Simmer, covered, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. When done, stir in salt, pepper, butter, and lime juice. Keep warm until ready to serve.


Boil broccoli for a few minutes, just until tender-crisp. Drain. Serve the ropa vieja over the rice with the broccoli on the side. Garnish with bell pepper if desired.


BEEF: $2.23
TOMATOES: 55 cents
BROCCOLI: 54 cents

Everything else was basically a pantry staple, and therefore I'm not counting the cost. It's worth noting, however, that saffron is THE most expensive spice, but I got my jar at Trader Joe's for $6. I'm not counting the small piece of bell pepper I used as garnish, either, mostly because I would've much preferred some fresh cilantro (which I just ran out of, unfortunately).

This made 3 generous servings of ropa vieja, and two full-meal servings (including rice and broccoli). I'll count that as 2.5 servings. Which makes our GRAND TOTAL per serving...

$1.49 ! ! !

Dios Mio! That's a deal if I've ever seen one.

This was a really tasty dish, too. I can see, with a few recipe modifications, this being a great party dish - you could just throw some beef in the slow cooker in the morning, make some rice and maybe some roasted bell or poblano peppers, and have everyone serve themselves. Get the mojito bar going, and voila! Instant Cuban-themed fiesta.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

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