Vaca Frita (Crispy Shredded Beef)
Have I got a treat for you today! This month’s recipe is for my all-time favorite Cuban dish: Vaca Frita! This staple of every Cuban kitchen is crispy shredded beef with an onion, lime, garlic flavor that is unique and hard to beat for an explosion of flavor. I also love the name – literally translated it means Fried Cow in English! You’ve just got to love that Cuban sense of humor!
Whenever Mom was going to make it, I would be sure to be home for dinner. I’ve had it in almost every Cuban restaurant in Miami and now, Raleigh. It’s a two-step process since you have to roast the beef first and then shred and fry it, but trust me, it is so worth it.
Traditionally, Vaca Frita is served with rice and black beans and tostones or maduros (respectively, twice fried plaintains or very ripe fried plaintains – recipes for those coming soon). A nice sliced avocado and tomato salad sprinkled with olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper goes beautifully with it also.
By the way, a quicker and equally delicious variation is to use shredded chicken instead and make Vaca Frita de Pollo. Substitute shredded rotisserie chicken (plain, not BBQ) from your local supermarket. Easy peasy / facilicimo!
Vaca Frita (Fried Shredded Beef)
(Makes about 4-6 servings)
- 2-3 lbs. cooked beef roast (see recipe below)
- 3 tablespoons dry sherry or cooking wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
- 2 ½ cups sliced yellow onion
- 2 cups cored and sliced green bell peppers (I am NOT a green pepper fan so I cut these into large pieces so they can be easily picked out later)
- Olive oil (for sautéing)
- Juice of ½ lime
- Lime wedges (for those who like it nice and tart!)
- Take the roasted meat (receipt below) and pound it out with a meat mallet or rolling pin to break into strands. Fork shred or separate if necessary.
- Sprinkle meat with a little sherry and season with salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin.
- Sauté the garlic cloves, onions, and green peppers in the oil until the onions begin to go limp.
- Add the meat in large pieces, and pan fry undisturbed for 5 minutes, pressing down with a spatula until the meat is crispy. Flip and pan-fry the other side for another 4 minutes, again pressing down with a spatula. Careful not to burn it – remember it’s cooked already so this is just to flavor it and give it that crispy crust.
- Squeeze the lime juice over the meat before serving but while still hot.
- Serve with lime wedges as garnish.
Roast Recipe to use in Vaca Frita Recipe Above
- 1 (3-pound) chuck, flank or pot roast
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- Flour for dusting
- Olive oil for browning
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 2 cups white onion, sliced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- Cut the roast into 2 or 3 pieces (against the grain) and salt and pepper them.
- Dust the roast lightly with flour and brown on both sides in olive oil.
- Place the roast in a heavy pot or Dutch oven and add the wine and just enough water to surround the roast but NOT cover it with liquid.
- Add bay leaf, onion, celery, and peppercorns to season. Cover pan.
- Cook for approximately 30 to 45 minutes per pound. The roast is done when the meat is tender and starts to shred.
- Discard all vegetables and bay leaf. (Use this delicious beef broth in other recipes!)
- Use meat to make the Vaca Frita recipe above.