Ropa Vieja with Baked Plantains
Ropa Vieja adapted from PaleOMG: http://paleomg.com/crockpot-ropa-vieja-cuban-style-rice/
I’m a big fan of souvenirs. If I travel somewhere I’ll pick up something small, like a magnet (bonus if the magnet doubles as a bottle opener) so I can stick it on my fridge and be reminded of a happy place when I’m getting some eggs, broccoli, or a bottle of wine.
But sometimes the best souvenirs aren’t magnets or anything like what you can find in a touristy shop (which I’m a total sucker for). I think the flavors of the places you’ve traveled to provide great memories of where you’ve been and even better is recreating those flavors at home.
My family and I recently returned from a vacation in beautiful Puerto Rico. When we planned the trip some time ago, I thought it would be a nice spring break for my sons, from New England’s long winter, and the norm of work and school. The plan was to have lots of relaxing beach time. And we absolutely did. Our first day there we found that chilling can be exhausting. We had woken up fairly early for our flight and basically headed straight to the beach after checking into our hotel. Hours of swimming, laying on a lounge chair while enjoying piña coladas, and literally not being on the go mentally and physically was a new concept for me. By dinner time we were tired and a little hungry – but not hungry enough to commit to a full meal (those piña coladas can be filling).
We decided to go to the hotel’s lounge area and get some small bites. One of the things we ordered was Ropa Vieja Corn Arepas, which is shredded, slow cooked, tender meat over a corn-meal based grilled cake. One bite and I was a very happy, relaxed tourist. I was savoring the flavors and also thinking, “How can I make this at home?”
The Ropa Vieja reminded me of Juli Bauer’s recipe on PaleOMG. I’ve made it before and loved it. Easy to make and most importantly – so flavorful. That’s essentially how I feel about all the recipes I’ve made from her site and cookbooks. There really isn’t any one of her recipes that I’ve tried before that left me feeling meh about. Seriously, check out her website (www.paleomg.com) and be amazed!
I followed her recipe exactly here, except I didn’t add the capers since my family aren’t big fans. But I did add the brine from the capers so technically they still make an appearance. I also slow cooked it for about eight hours. When I went to shred the beef it fell apart perfectly. And really, if something is going to fall apart, shouldn’t it be done perfectly?
I grew up eating fried plantains and they are one of my favorite things on this planet. Because of that – and missing all the tostones I had in Puerto Rico – I thought serving them with the Ropa Vieja would be good. But trying to keep things healthy, I decided to bake them instead of frying. To me there’s nothing like fried food. But at the same time, I don’t want to have a muffin top to rest my Lipitor on. So baking it is. (Though, I will go back to fried every once in while for a special occasion. Like when we book another trip to Puerto Rico!)