Vaca Frita! Fried Cow? Holy Cow!!
Vaca Frita, a dish made with flank steak, was brought to the United States by the Cuban immigrants. Its rich flavors and funky name has made it a favorite of Americans, especially in Miami and other southern cities that host a large Cuban population.
Cuban food has diverse influences, from European to African to Antillean. As with Latin American food, Cuban food is humble, yet incredibly flavorful. Again, the ingredients are basic, easy to obtain and also inexpensive. I will most certainly be including more Cuban recipes in this blog. Stay tuned!
Vaca Frita is a close cousin to Ropa Vieja (check blog), with one basic difference: Ropa Vieja is cooked only once while Vaca Frita is cooked twice: once when the meat is stewed and again when pan-fried, hence its colorful name!
The origins of Vaca Frita are also akin to those of Ropa Vieja, which hails from the Canary Islands (off the western coast of north Africa.) Most likely these beef recipes became popular in the plantations where slaves were given the toughest cut of meat. The ingenuity of these people in turning a not so palatable cut of meat into something flavorful and tender is nothing short of amazing.
My first brush with Cuban food was many years ago. While I was growing up my family owned a condo in Miami for business reasons. I would often tag along on these business trips. Even at an early age, and with an undeveloped palate, I found Cuban food to be exploding with flavor. Vaca frita became an instant favorite of mine. My family has since sold the condo, but my husband and I travel to Florida on occasion, and one of my first items on the agenda, is to eat Vaca Frita, accompanied of course by black beans and rice!!
I think you will find Vaca Frita to be a nice addition to your family mealtime. If you are not fond of rice and beans, french fries or mashed potatoes are a great alternative side dish.
- 2 lbs. flank steak
- 2 bay leaves
- 6-8 sprigs of cilantro tied with kitchen twine
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 3-4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced onions
- 1 lime cut in wedges
- 1 tsp salt (paleo diet: sea salt)
- 1 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Season flank steak with all the seasonings and allow to rest for about 1 hour.
- In a large skillet saute the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the seasoned flank steak and brown lightly on both sides (about 2 minutes per side.) Add enough water to cover the meat.. Add bay leaves, cilantro sprigs and peppercorns.
- Simmer on low heat until tender (about 1.5 hours)
- Remove the meat from the liquid, place on a cutting board covered and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.
- Slice across the grain into several pieces (about 6). Pound each piece of steak with a meat mallet until it is about half the original thickness.
- Strain the liquid, and add the solids back in the pan with a little olive oil. Fry the steak pieces until slightly brown on both sides. Squeeze lime over meat. Rice and black beans are a great sides.