Sunday, September 24, 2006

The touching, poignant cookbook post...

...will have to be written by someone else, because I'm coming up dry.

Part of it is circumstances. Anything older than, say, 1961 was left behind in Cuber because the People's Revolutionary Gummint had need to confiscate it (literally) at bayonet-point. So whatever my greatgreatgreatgreatgrandmother might've had to pass along is now helping the Worker's Paradise stem the plutocracy.

The other part is that my family has always been a crew of very loyal recipe readers. The idea of substituting scallions for shallots or vice-versa is, frankly, unthinkable. Not only not done, not even fleetingly considered. So any cookbooks I'd inherit wouldn't have any neat notes scribbled along the margins to the effect of "Sherry vinegar works so much better than cider vinegar." My paternal grandmother's great life frustration was not being a For Real Pastry Chef, but for all that frustration, all she left behind were books on technique and her very own recipe for a cake she invented so she could practice all that piping-with-the-pastry-bag. I don't recall ever eating one of these cakes. She also had a recipe for butter-pecan ice cream (sans pecans for which she didn't care).

At some point my mom gave my kid sister a cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook) and even inscribed it. The irony is that my mom hates cooking and so does my sister -- fortunately she married a guy who'll pretty much eat whatever won't pounce on him and ingest him first -- so by default I got it and that was 1971 and just look at me now.

My maternal grandmother, being all Italic, was much foodier. But, being Italic, she eyeballed EVERYTHING. I remember watching her cook day after day for epochs, but she never used a cookbook. And I mean nevah. I doubt she so much as owned a cookbook. In fact, if I hadn't seen her reading through a Missal, I would have doubted the old girl's literacy. (My paternal grandmother only had one cookbook, which I've yet to inherit.)

She (we're back to the maternal grandmother) also liked taking standard fare from Spain or Cuber and Italianizing it. So, since I have nothing particularly heart-tugging to post, I offer my favorite recipe of hers:

Ropa Vecchia*

1 pound brisket (flank also works well, but is a bit too pricy for this use.) I have no idea what this cut is called in the UK/Canada/Aus./NZ, but it comes from the chest and it's thickish, and has a long and clearly defined grain; anything along these lines will work although this might require a longer or shorter poach)
6 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 cups crushed plum tomatoes with their juice (I like Pomi, use whatever you like)
1 medium yellow onion
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or basil, shredded (NOT BOTH!)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
Fresh ground pepper & salt to taste

Trim the beef. Poach it at as low a heat and as long a time as you have patience for. You want this to be VERY readily shredded. Reserve the broth to make stocks, soups, etc. Mash the garlic. Dice the onion. Put them in a small saucepan with the extra virgin olive oil and saute until the onion is golden, making sure you don't color the garlic too much. Add the basil or oregano and tomatoes. Season w. salt and pepper. Cook until it coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Shred the beef with two forks. Toss in sauce, as if this was a shredded (not ground) sloppy joe. Top with Parm. cheese, if desired. Leftovers can be reheated and topped with mozzarella to make a terrific sandwich/panino. (You can even add back a bit of the beef broth to make this more of a soup/stew thing.)


* In Cuber -- back when they had food -- there's a very famous dish called Ropa Vieja, which means, literally, "old clothes" because the beef is shredded so as to resemble rags. Vecchia is Italian for "vieja."

Posted by Joke at 4:21 PM


  • Blogger Poppy Buxom posted at 6:41 PM, September 24, 2006  
    I have run this recipe through my word processor and come up with the following:

    "Vecchia" means old lady + the other part means "clothes" = old lady clothes = granny pants =

    Cuban Granny Pants

    And that's what I'll call it.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 6:46 PM, September 24, 2006  
    Cuban Granny Pants Cure Nomia.

    (Take THAT, Google!)

  • Blogger blackbird posted at 8:47 PM, September 24, 2006  
    see, and now?
    I'm a little scared of it as I can only picture shredded, um, pants.

    Poppy needs soup!

    Post a soup recipe!
  • Blogger Poppy Buxom posted at 11:55 PM, September 24, 2006  
    It's OK--That Stud Muffin I Married 18 Years Ago Today made a big pot of chickeny goodness today.
  • Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge posted at 4:13 AM, September 25, 2006  
    Not fair - it's baked fish on the menu in the House of the Ladies Lounge tonight but now all I want is beefy granny pants. In shreds.
  • Blogger Gina posted at 9:12 AM, September 25, 2006  
    My mom's side of the family eats the Cuban Granny Pants all the time, usually in the form of sandwiches. Makes the house smell so good!
  • Blogger Joke posted at 10:53 PM, September 25, 2006  

    You realize you're making the Google perverts all giddy, don't ya?

  • Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge posted at 8:14 AM, September 26, 2006  
    24 hours of lusting for the ingredients of Cuban shredded beefy granny pants. I'm buying the ingredients on the way home tomorrow.

    I hope you're happy.
  • Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge posted at 8:16 AM, September 26, 2006  
    Make that 28 hours, I've just checked the time stamps on the comments.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 8:26 AM, September 26, 2006  

    When you find the suitable cut of beef, let me know so that I may update the post.


  • Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge posted at 9:21 AM, September 27, 2006  
    Failed dismally so far: had to run home for IT guy (major techie saga at my house) on Tuesday and didn't get out of office until after 8ish tonight. The quest continues!
  • Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge posted at 9:22 AM, September 27, 2006  
    Damn, forgot to ask: is it my ageing eyes or does the front recipe card in the pictured box read "curried saffron bread"?
  • Blogger Joke posted at 9:26 AM, September 27, 2006  

    It might also be "Cornish Saffron Bread" although what they'd be doing with saffron in Cornwall is something of a mystery.

  • Blogger Badger posted at 10:09 AM, September 27, 2006  
    Well obviously they're making bread with it. Duh.

    I lurve ropa vieja.
  • Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge posted at 4:09 AM, September 30, 2006  
    Ok, Shredded Cuban Granny Pants is on the House of the Ladies Lounge menu for Sunday night. I settled for skirt steaks - do you have that cut? It's looooooong grained and reasonably thick but not a chunk like shoulder so I'll just watch the cooking time.

    If you happen to see this, Joke, can you advise whether browning before stewing is necessary or desirable? Ta.

    It's taken six days, but once I've got the recipe lust, I don't rest til I'm satisfied.

    All of which adds up to some seriously pissed off blogging tomorrow night if the Australian version of the Granny Pants fails to shred sweetly.

    I'll get back to ya.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 8:34 AM, September 30, 2006  
    Skirt we have. We generally use it more in the sear-it-quickly-over-live-fire mode, but I can't imagine why it couldn't work. (Since it's a very popular cut for Mexican food, it's gotten quite expensive here.)

    The weird thing about this recipe is that the beef is NOT to be seared. You just poach it low and slow.

  • Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge posted at 11:58 PM, September 30, 2006  
    Bewdy. Off to start it now.
  • Blogger Kim posted at 6:11 AM, October 01, 2006  
    this is so on our menu this week. I've got some chuck steak in the freezer and considering the required long cooking time, it should work a treat.

    Bec - did you make it tonight?

    It's going to be called Cuban Granny Pants in this house too.

    What do you poach it in? Stock or water? And how much for how long? I'm guessing minimum of an hour, 1.5hrs being ideal? Do you just keep topping up the water? I just would have browned it in a pan then cooked it almost like a casserole, shredding the beef at the end, but then I guess that would have been more Italian than Cuban. Or some such.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 7:42 AM, October 01, 2006  

    I put it in one of those giganticmous (i.e. 6 quart/5.X liter) dutch oven thingies, filling it to the brim with water. I then put the heat on the burner as low as it will go and I subsequently forget about it.

    Stock/broth generally brings about the problem of salt which gets concentrated.

    1 to 1.5 hours should be fine but the longer the better. I stop the poaching phase when water is now level with the beef.

    The fact this recipe does not call for the beef to be browned beforehand makes it ideal for a crockpot sort of application.

  • Blogger Kim posted at 8:59 AM, October 01, 2006  
    Ahhh, so it's a big hunk of meat then (eat your heart out perverted Googlers) rather than thick cut steaks.
    I asked Chef, he wasn't helpful at all. I shall pull out one of his textbooks.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 9:02 AM, October 01, 2006  

    Something in the flank/brisket family. Broad, flat not more than 2" (5cm) thick and with a visible, lo-o-o-o-o-ong grain.

    It is the aforesaid grain that allows the beef to shred nicely. Once it's shredded up, the beef should be in long strands, like spaghetti.

  • Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge posted at 8:44 PM, October 01, 2006  
    The skirt steak worked a treat - it comes thick cut anyway, but not to the 2" mark. Spaghetti-like strands? Absolutely.

    Photos about to go up on my blog.
  • Blogger Stomper Girl posted at 1:06 AM, October 03, 2006  
    Hello, I've popped in from Bec and wanted to say how much I have enjoyed both your stories of the Cuban Granny Pants. I recently saw someone wearing an apron which said "I'm Italian. I don't need a recipe." I see now this is true.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 8:05 AM, October 03, 2006  
    Hello and welcome SG! It's very true of the Italians and if you want to see real conversational fireworks you don't broach the normally taboo subject of religion or ask two Italians to discuss the best way to make ____ sauce.

    Sometimes you have to intervene before blood insults ensue.

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