It doesn’t matter that the temperatures still read 79 or 80 degrees in the afternoons, but as soon as the mornings turn cool, as soon as the early evenings are dark, it’s time for soup. It’s time for soup, sweaters, warm spice and apple picking, and for me, it feels right. As much as I love summer and all of its trappings, fall is better. In fact, it’s the best. 

Ropa Vieja is a traditional Cuban dish and is a good slide into sweater and soup weather. This recipe combines warm spice, rich beef and fresh herbs for a savory, lip-smacking broth that’s even better the next day. It’s traditionally done with flank or skirt steak, and the long cooking time makes the beef shred, making it look messy. The name translates into “old clothes,” in reference to how it looks like a pile of laundry when cooked. The best way to do this is to spend the time making a big ol’ pot of Ropa Vieja on a Sunday, letting it sit overnight, and then having it for dinner and lunches throughout the week. The flavors are better when left to marry overnight. 

This savory soup is great served with white rice, black beans, avocado and slices of avocado. Hot sauce is good, too. 


Serves 6


  • 2 lbs. flank steak
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 rounded tablespoon cumin
  • 1 rounded tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 14-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • Cooked rice
  • Fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS for making a sensational Ropa Viaja

  1. Heat the oven to 375°.
  2. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper. Set a Dutch oven over medium heat and add a swirl of olive oil. Sear the beef until browned on both sides. Keep the beef on a plate and set aside. 
  3. Add the onion and pepper and cook until very soft; then stir in the garlic. Cook for a minute or so; then add the spices. Pour in the wine and let simmer for a few minutes, until reduced by half. Add the beef back to the pot, along with the tomatoes and bay leaf. 
  4. Transfer the Dutch oven to the oven and roast for 2 hours. Carefully remove and cool for a few minutes. 
  5. Use two forks to shred the beef. Add the raisins, capers, vinegar and oregano. Taste and season with salt and pepper. 
  6. Serve over hot rice with the olives and cilantro. 

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