Cuban Shredded Beef (Vaca Frita)

Having just returned from Mexico my Latin taste buds are their peak, so I was excited to try this Cuban recipe. While I’ve never heard of Vaca Frita (Fried Cow) before, it seemed similar to cuban Ropa Vieja (which means “Old Clothes”).  However, after tasting I see that the recipes are very different, the Vaca Frita is browned, and is not shredded. Traditionally, this recipe is made with expensive Skirt Steak, but Chris Kimball substitutes inexpensive Chuck Roast.  I was very skeptical that $3/lb chuck could be even remotely compare to $10/lb skirt steak. But the smashing technique called for in step 8 of this recipe is brilliant, fooling my eyes into thinking I was really eating beef costing over three times the price.

Great technique made for an amazing dinner

Great technique made for an amazing dinner

Comments and Issues:

  1. I used the full onion called for in the recipe, but I think that 1 regular sized onion was too much. It may not have helped that I overcooked the onion a bit, turning it sweet.
  2. I didn’t have orange juice, so I squeezed squeezed half an orange.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today is as follows:

2 Lbs boneless beef chuck-eye roast
Kosher salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 limes: 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon juice, plus lime wedges for serving
1 onion
2 tablespoons dry sherry

  1. When selecting the beef, choose a well-marbled roast.
  2. Pull the roast apart at the fat seams. Trim away any large knobs of fat, but don’t remove all visible fat. You will use some of the rendered fat in stead of vegetable oil. Cut the beef into 1-1/2″ cubes.
  3. Place 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-high burner, add beef cubes, 2 cups of water and 1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (or 5/8 teaspoons table salt).  Bring up to a boil.
  4. Reduce burner to low, cover the skillet, and allow beef to gently simmer for 1h45m, until the beef becomes very tender. Chris Kimball suggest that you check the beef every 30 minutes, adding water so that the lower 1/3 of beef remains submerged. However, I saw very little evaporation during the simmering, and did not have to add any water.
  5. Meanwhile, press 3 garlic cloves directly into a small bowl, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin. In a second small bowl, add orange juice, lime zest and lime juice. Set aside both bowls until Step 12.  Cut onion in half and thinly slice.
  6. After 1h45m, increase burner to medium and remove the lid from skillet to allow the water to evaporate. Allow to simmer for 3 to 8 minutes, or until all water evaporates and the beef begins to sizzle.
  7. Using slotted spoon, move the cooked beef to a rimmed baking sheet, then pour fat from skillet into a small bowl.
  8. Place sheet of aluminum foil over beef and, flatten the beef with a meat pounder or a heavy sauté pan until it is 1/8″ pieces. Pick through to remove any large pieces of fat or connective tissue. Some of the beef will become shreds, but most will resemble skirt steak in texture. If some pieces are too large you can just tear them in half.
  9. Rinse out the skillet and dry it using paper towels to dry; put over high burner. Add back 1-1/2 teaspoons reserved fat to skillet (supplement with vegetable oil if you don’t have enough). Pre-heat until the fat begins to sizzle, then saute onion and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions become golden brown and some spots become charred.
  10. Add sherry and another 1/4 cup water. Cook for 2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Empty onion to bowl (you can use your serving bowl to minimize clean-up).
  11. Put now empty skillet back over high burner, adding 1-1/2 teaspoons reserved fat (supplement with vegetable oil if you don’t have enough). Again, pre-heat until the fat begins to sizzle. Add beef and cook for between 2 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until beef becomes crusty and dark golden brown.
  12. Decrease burner to low heat, and move beef to sides of skillet. Saute garlic mixture in the center of the skillet for 30 seconds, then remove skillet from burner. Add orange juice mixture and sauteed onion, and stir until combined.
  13. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately with wedges of lime.
A meat pounder made it look like skirt steak

A meat pounder made it look like skirt steak

About these ads

7 Responses to Cuban Shredded Beef (Vaca Frita)

  1. Dennis says:

    “I didn’t have orange juice, so I squeezed squeezed half an orange.”

    I am wondering where you think orange juice comes from? ;)

  2. JEC says:

    Hey. Just wanted you to know that I read your blog pretty frequently and have it bookmarked. I’ve never commented before but I also see that you don’t generally get many comments so I figured I’d say, “keep up the good work.” It’s always an interesting read.

  3. Diane says:

    Yeah, me too. Not a frequent commenter, but I *always* read your blog. I really appreciate the real-life tips!

  4. Rochelle Eissenstat says:

    I also enjoy reading your blog. I always use your advice!

  5. Redwethree says:

    I am so glad I discovered your blog!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 319 other followers

%d bloggers like this: