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Ropa Vieja Burgers (Old Clothes Burgers)

The “Ropa Vieja Burger” recipe was inspired by an old traditional Cuban dish that I have seen my mother prepare since I was a little girl. Traditional “ropa vieja”, or old clothes, is made with skirt or flank stake cooked with “sofrito”, shredded and smothered in a heavenly sauce made with onions, garlic, cubanelle peppers, red peppers, tomato sauce, paprika and white wine. “Ropa vieja” is usually served with white rice and black beans and accompanied by sweet and chewy “maduros” (fried ripe plantains). One of the things I loved growing up was dipping Cuban bread in “ropa vieja” sauce, such is the case, that my mother always makes sure to leave just enough meat and sauce on the sauté pan for me to indulge scooping it out with small pieces of fresh Cuban bread. Thus, emerged the inspiration for the “Ropa Vieja Burger.” This recipe is adapted to meet the contest rules while preserving the rich flavors of the traditional dish.


Ropa Vieja Salsa:
4 tablespoon Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 large cloves garlic, crushed (using mortar and pestle)
1 large onion thinly sliced
1 medium cubanelle pepper thinly sliced
1 medium red pepper thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
6 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc
4 shallots finely minced
1 medium size cubanelle pepper finely chopped
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 teaspoons salt
3 pounds ground skirt or flank steak
2 loaves fresh Cuban bread
Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill rack


Preheat gas grill to high. Grill should reach a temperature of 600-800 degrees covered. To make the ropa vieja salsa, place olive oil, garlic, onions, cubanelle pepper, red pepper, black pepper, salt, paprika and tomato paste in a large (12”) non-stick sauté pan that is grill-safe (metal handle). Place on the preheated grill and cover. Check often (every minute or so), as soon as ingredients begin to warm up and soften stir to combine all ingredients well (a long metal tongue will work better). Continue to cook covered for 15 minutes stirring often. Add ½ cup Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc, stir well and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat but allow to remain warm until serving. To make patties, preheat grill again to reach a temperature of 600-800 degrees covered. In a bowl, combine shallots, cubanelle pepper, black pepper and salt. Combine all ingredients well with a fork. Add seasoning to ground flank stake and combine well. Divide mixture into 6 equal parts and form into rectangular patties; each patty should be approximately 3”x5” or to fit the width of the loaf of Cuban bread (some bakeries make them different). Cut the ends of each loaf to eliminate tapering sections. Cut the remaining loaf into three equal sections. Both loaves should yield 6 ”burger buns”. Cut each piece lengthwise as if preparing them for a Cuban sandwich. Make sure to keep each top with its corresponding bottom. Brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Place patties on the open grill (temperature on the open grill should drop to 300-400 degrees); allow cooking on one side for 12 minutes. Turn patties and continue grilling for another 12 minutes. Turn again and grill for 3 minutes. Turn patties one final time and grill for another 3 minutes. During the last three minutes of grilling place bread, cut side down, on the grill and allow to toast lightly. To assemble burgers, place each patty on the bottom half of the bread. Follow by placing a generous amount of the ropa vieja salsa on the patty and the top portion of the bread. Cut each burger diagonally. Hold together with a sandwich pick.


Makes 6 burgers.