I started making these when I had a food truck at South by Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Texas, to showcase my new line of sauces. The meat is a version of ropa vieja, or “old clothes,” which is braised, shredded flank steak traditional to many cuisines of the Caribbean.
My mom makes ropa vieja all the time; I learned to make it from her. To utilize my barbecue sauce, I got the idea to toss ropa vieja with the sauce and then use the meat to make sliders.
You can also serve the meat (with or without sauce) with rice, which is how Puerto Ricans traditionally eat ropa vieja, or use it to fill pastelitos, which is the Puerto Rican version of empanadas, or meat pies, using Buttery Flakey Everything Dough (see cookbook) for the pie shells.
It’s good too with rice or leftover mashed potato. You can use Bounty & Full Wild Cherry BBQ sauce for this, which is how this dish originated.
Makes 4 cups or enough for 16 sliders
6 fresh thyme sprigs
4 fresh oregano sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 pounds flank steak, cut into 2 segments to fit in your pan
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 green and 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
15 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup Wild Cherry BBQ
16 small brioche buns, cut in half
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1. Wrap the thyme, oregano, and rosemary in a doubled piece of cheesecloth and tie it closed with kitchen string to make an herb bouquet.
2. Season the meat on both sides with the salt and pepper.
3. Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, until it’s searing hot. Add 1 piece of meat to the pot and sear it until it is deep brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Remove the meat from the pan and sear the second piece of meat. Leave the second one in the pot onions, green and red bell peppers, garlic, paprika, cumin and enough water to just cover the meat and vegetables. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the meat can be gently torn apart with a fork, about 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let the meat cool to room temperature in the liquid.
4. Lift the meat out of the liquid and shred it back into the pot with the cooking liquid. (I like to go at it with kitchen shears.) Remove the herb bouquet and stir in the barbecue sauce.
Season with salt to taste.
5. Brush the insides of the buns with the melted butter and toast the insides only under the broiler. Scoop 1/2 cup of the barbecue beef onto each bun and serve.