28-ounce cans Spanish-style tomato sauceMay sub regular tomato sauce for a milder version.
3tablespoonscoarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
4celery stalkswith leaves, cut into ¼-inch dice
3medium carrotstrimmed and cut into ¼-inch dice
For the sofrito
2medium Spanish onionscut into large chunks
3 to 4Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers
16 to 20clovesgarlicpeeled
1large bunch cilantrowashed
3 to 4ripe plum tomatoescored and cut into chunks
1large red bell peppercored, seeded and cut into large chunks
For the sofrito
Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped.
With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It also freezes beautifully.
Freeze excess sofrito in ½ cup batches in sealable plastic bags. *see note
For the Ropa Vieja
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Season both sides of the beef generously with salt, pepper and onion powder.
Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof, heavy skillet over high heat until rippling. Add the beef and cook it until well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes.
Drain or spoon off most of the fat from the pan.
Stir in the sofrito, 2 teaspoons salt, cumin, tomato sauce, water, olives, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover the dish and bake until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork, about 3 hours. Let stand in the sauce until cool enough to handle.
Shred the meat coarsely by hand or using two forks.
Return it to the sauce and add the celery and carrots. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Watch the liquid as it cooks, and add more broth or water as needed.
Serve with black beans and yellow rice.
*Now, sofrito purists will tell you that it has to be simmered or braised before it’s a true sofrito. I disagree with this entirely. At least the way I use it, it always gets cooked anyway, and why would I braise it just to leave all that flavor in the braising pot? I say throw it together raw, and let it cook and meld flavors in whatever dish you’re making as it cooks.Alternative cooking method: Add all ingredients for Ropa Vieja to a crock pot. Cook on low for 6 hours.