I’ve been lucky enough to make it through round one of the Project Food Blog competition. Needless to say, I’m pumped! This week we’ve been asked to embrace another culture and take on the challenge of recreating a classic ethnic dish. I’m a half Italian (hooray for Lasagna) and half Hungarian (bring on the sour cream) girl, so Cuban food isn’t exactly something I have any life long experience with.
“Authentic” is a tricky word to master in ethnic cooking. Food is inherently regional. In the US, some people put mustard on their hamburger. But here in NY, if you send a burger out of the kitchen with mustard, we’re sending it right back. Some variations on Ropa Vieja use flank steak. Grandma used chuck roast so, I’m going with chuck.
The roast is browned and then slowly braised in a Dutch oven. If you want to hop on the American crock-pot bandwagon, you can certainly make the roast in the crock-pot. I normally shy away from fatty cuts like chuck, but you need the moisture. It helps the meat to shred nicely. I don’t trim any of the fat before cooking. I let the meat cool in the braising liquid and skim off any grease that collects on top. I also remove any remaining fatty bits from the meat while shredding.
After just a few minutes in the oven, the pastry dough puffs up and turns a beautiful golden brown. Even without frying, the dough is still flaky and the stew stays nice and juicy on the inside. For a health conscious eater, empanadas are pre-portioned. I’ll eat one for lunch and won’t be tempted to go back and scoop a second portion. This really is the perfect Cuban meal to-go. We gobbled them up in a few minutes flat.
I may not be a little Cuban grandma, but I know I did my husband’s family proud with this meal. It was authentic and delicious. I might have even earned the highly regarded “honorary Cuban” status after all!
* Voting opens on Monday, September 27th on FoodBuzz. Remember to vote for your favorite healthy home cook, me!