Thrift Shop Stew -- aka "Ropa Vieja"

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Another favorite family dish from my childhood long ago in Mexico City. It’s not authentically Mexican, but it is very tasty – pulled pork or beef in a slightly tomatoey sauce with just a hint of zing from the chiles.

Serve it over rice with corn tortillas and maybe a side of refried beans. It’s a great addition to a brunch buffet line-up, too.

Thrift Shop Stew over rice, with corn tortillas. Warm and comforting!
Thrift Shop Stew over rice, with corn tortillas. Warm and comforting!

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 3 hours
Ready in: 4 hours
Yields: Serves 8 with rice and tortillas.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. beef or pork stew meat
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 T. vinegar
  • ½ cup pork or beef broth
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • ½ to 1 can jalapeno chiles
  • 1 T. juice from can of chiles
  • 1 medium sweet green pepper, julienned
  • 1 16-oz. can petite diced tomatoes, (or 4 fresh, peeled and chopped)
  • 1 bay leaf
Stewing the meat. Don't let it dry out too much; add water as needed.
Stewing the meat. Don't let it dry out too much; add water as needed.

Instructions

1. Cook pork or beef with 1 - 1/3 cups water, salt and garlic powder until tender, about 3 hours. Add water as needed if it boils away.

(For a crock-pot alternative method, see note below)

Using a fork and a knife, or two forks, shred the meat.
Using a fork and a knife, or two forks, shred the meat.

Set the meat aside to cool.

Shred finely.

Remove the seeds and the white inside ribs of the peppers, then slice into skinny strips about an inch long.
Remove the seeds and the white inside ribs of the peppers, then slice into skinny strips about an inch long.

Preparing the sauce

Chop the green pepper into julienne strips -- about an inch long, narrow as you can make them.

Chop the onions. I like having both these veggies cut into long thin strips, but it's not necessary.
Chop the onions. I like having both these veggies cut into long thin strips, but it's not necessary.

Chop the onions into a small dice, or slice into strips about an inch long.

Having the peppers and the onions in about the same shape can be aesthetically pleasing, but you don't have to do that if you're in a hurry, or can't be bothered. Just make the pieces small enough to be easily consumed.

Vegetables and garlic, being sauteed.
Vegetables and garlic, being sauteed.

2. Heat the vegetable oil in dutch oven or a large deep skillet. Saute onion and green peppers. When the vegetables are soft, add garlic and heat until fragrant.

Make the sauce and add the shredded meat.
Make the sauce and add the shredded meat.

3. Add the vinegar and the broth to the sauteed vegetables, and stir to scrape up any caramelized bits that are clinging to the bottom of the skillet.

4. Add the ketchup and the juice from the can of chiles. Stir.

5. Add the tomatoes, the chiles, and the bay leaf.

6. Add the shredded meat.

Stew is done!
Stew is done!

Cook your Thrift Shop Stew for another 20 minutes to blend the flavors.

Serve with rice and corn tortillas.

Enjoy!

Alternative cooking method

NOTE: Cooking the meat takes a long time – to get really tender, stew meat takes about 3 hours on the stovetop. You can’t really walk away from it, either, since the water tends to boil away and more needs to be added from time to time.

If you'd like to try this recipe in a crock pot instead, I would suggest making the sauce first on the stovetop (Steps 2 through 5) and then putting the raw meat and the prepared sauce together in the crock pot and cooking on High for 6 to 7 hours (or Low for 7 to 8 hours).

Then remove the meat, shred it and return it to the stew. Doing it this way will result in a thinner, more watery stew, but it would be easier!

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