Saturday, May 2, 2009

Vaca Frita de Esther

On Sunday we set out to learn how to make “the best Vaca Frita in the world”, according to two very reliable sources – the “chef's” teen-aged grandsons. Who knows more about food than teen-aged boys? The teacher was Esther, our friend’s mother, who took over her daughter’s kitchen to teach us how to make this delicious Cuban staple.

We’re dividing the recipe into two parts – Part One is cooking the meat and Part Two is frying the meat.


Part One
½ head garlic – smash the cloves
3 Roma tomatoes – quartered
1 large onion – cut in large wedges
1 green bell pepper – cut in strips
1 teaspoon of Sazón or other Latin seasoning mix
½ teaspoon salt
1½ lbs Beef Flank Steak
Water to cover the ingredients

Part 21 large onion – thinly sliced
3 heaping teaspoons minced garlic
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon salt
Olive Oil to coat the pan


This recipe makes approximately 6 servings

Part One

  1. Cut the meat vertically, with the grain, in half or thirds (depending on its width).

  1. Add the meat, vegetables and seasoning to pot.

  1. Add the water to cover the ingredients.

  1. Set pressure cooker as usual. Cook on medium for 30 minutes until the meat is fork tender.

  • NOTE: If you’re not using a pressure cooker, just follow the recipe as indicated, except let the meat and other ingredients slow boil for at least an hour until the meat is fork tender.

  • NOTE: You can also use a slow-cooker setting it on Low for about 8 hours.

  1. Turn the heat off and take pot off heat source. Let the pressure release completely.

  2. Remove meat and set aside.

  • NOTE: The broth and vegetables make a great base for soup.

Part Two

  1. Shred the meat using your hands and/or a fork.

  1. Add salt, garlic, half of the sliced onions, and the lime juice.

  2. Coat a frying pan with olive oil and add mixture to the cold pan without heating the oil.

  1. On medium heat stir the meat constantly, adding additional onions and more oil gradually as needed.

  1. Once the onions are soft and the meat cooked, raise the heat and sear the meat until it’s slightly brown and crispy.

Serve with white rice and black beans, or plantains, or all three!

As usual there was wine and great conversation, with some family gossip, memories and secrets being shared – fun! We all enjoyed a wonderful lunch of Vaca Frita and since we doubled the recipe we had enough to take some home!

¡Buen provecho!


Jessica said...

Dear Esther, Hilda and Cristina,

My husband and I LOVE vaca frita, and we tried out Esther's recipe today. It was so delicious that I had to come and thank you all right away! I am from Miami (born to Cuban parents) and he is Dominican, and we both agree with Esther's grandsons! Very delicious! Thank you for sharing!

Christina DiBlase said...

I would love to see how the traditional Cuban Tamales are made. Mom is Cuban and Dad is Italian and I remember Mom cutting down the corn off the husks and running the kernels through the blender. She would add pieces of puerco from the pork chop and corn meal (Im guessing)and other things like achote etc then she would lay out the corn leaves (dont remember if they were green or yellow) and with a big spoon lay the mixture, wrap the leaves and tie with string. After popping in the boiling water for a while they would come out ready to eat. She'd would make care packages for my uncle and aunt and freeze some for us if the lasted that long!

Amanda said...

Will def give this a shot! Thank you so much for this recipe. I love the way pictures describe every step. You are very much appreciated! Thank you!!!

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium said...

informative post. This is very good information and beautiful art. I am going to show this to the class. Thanks for sharing your design process, very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hi thank you for the recipe! How long does it take to cook the meat and onions down at the end? Mine takes FOREVER to cook and get crispy (45 min- 1hr). It's like caramelizing onions. The end result tastes very good but I wish it were faster! I tried cooking in small batches and I could get it to brown faster, but putting all the meat in at once took forever. Thank you again :)

Cristina said...

Hi Anonymous,
We asked Esther how long it takes to cook and she didn't specify a time. Her daughter thinks it is at least 1/2 hour and I agree.
The times I have made it, I split it into two frying pans to spread the shredded meat and onions out over more surface. I've never timed it but I would venture to say depending on the amount of meat a good 30-40 minutes sounds about right to get it crispy.
In my humble opinion, well worth the wait.
Thanks for asking. Hope this helps.

Lizzy said...

I come from a Cuban family and my mother always made the best vaca frita. Unfortunately she passed when I was in my late teens and I never had the chance to ask her the specifics as I didn't cook much then. It's been well over 10 years and this is the best recipe for vaca frita ever! Tastes like I'm home every time. Thank you Esther for comforting my soul.

Anonymous said...

Living in Miami we have quite a few good Cuban restaurants to eat Vaca Frita at - but with this great and easy recipe I can feed the family and spend only half (or less) than what it costs to eat out ! Have used this recipe many times and it is always a hit ! Thanks for sharing Esther !

Michael Anthony said...

I'm Cuban and this recipes sounds like and (the pictures) looks like what a traditional Cuban abuela would cook. My mother had all the recipes and she died about 5 years ago (grandparents are all gone too), before I could get a chance to write it down. I hope this is close to hers, because if it's even remotely close, I can guarantee this recipe is going to be a hit with my friends and family. :)