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Recipe: Elk Ropa Vieja

Recipe: Elk Ropa Vieja

The national dish of Cuba, ropa vieja, means old clothes or “rags” and is historically made with stewed beef. The savory recipeworks great with wild game that needs to be cooked and shredded, just like old clothes when they become rags.

Ropa vieja is a popular dish in Puerto Rico, Spain and even the Philippines. It is also a popular dish in Florida, influenced by the Spanish culture. There are different variations on the dish, but most are made with meat, onions, a variety of peppers, and garnished with green olives, capers, and cilantro.

Cuba did not have many trading partners over the years, and as such, spices are few and far between. A variety of peppers, including poblano and jalapeño, add natural flavor and a touch of heat. When possible, roast or grill the poblano pepper first to release more flavor. Traditional ropa vieja is made with flank steak, which shreds nicely. The flavorful top sirloin of deer, moose, elk or bison works fantastic.

Ingredients
• 2 lbs. elk top sirloin steak
• salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 yellow onion, diced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
• ½ cup water
• 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
• 1 poblano pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1½ tsp ground cumin
• 2 bay leaves
• ½ cup green olives, chopped
• 2 tsp capers (optional)
• 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped (optional)

Directions
1. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Combine the meat with onion, garlic, tomatoes and their juices, water, peppers, oregano, cumin and bay leaves in a slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours, then on low for 4 hours.

2. Remove the meat and let it rest approximately 10 minutes. Shred the meat with two forks pulled in opposite directions against the grain of the steaks. Discard the bay leaf and return the meat to the pot.

3. Serve the ropa vieja hot over a bed of rice and top with some olives, capers and cilantro for optimal and authentic flavor. Serve with rice.

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