By Chef Ken Dempsey

Before I go into the “what,” let me tell you the “why” of this dish.


If anyone knows me, then you know I LOVE to cook. It brings back memories of the times standing in a chair in my grandmother’s kitchen trying to make sense of the ingredients she was putting together. A little of this and a little of that. Every one of Grandma Faye’s recipes seemed to come with at least a tiny cloud of secrecy and mystery … like she wanted to make sure the pupil didn’t become the teacher.

That’s how I remember it, but the truth is, if she actually had measurements for some of the food she made, grandma certainly wouldn’t mind sharing. She just did most of her cooking from the heart and with an immeasurable amount of love. I know that sounds cliché, but how else do you explain why it’s nearly impossible to duplicate those beloved dishes from our elders?

That’s what this dish reminds me of. Me … standing on the chair in grandma’s kitchen … watching her every move … trying to figure out exactly what she was doing. And when all of the ingredients were done doing their dance, we had all the smiles and comfort and love that one dish could possibly give.


This dish, Ropa Vieja (Spanish for old clothes), reminds me of the stewed beef she would make on occasion for everybody, minus the Cuban flavor combinations. It has all the heart and soul of those kitchen cooking lessons from way back and all the comfort of a warm fireplace in the middle of winter. And honestly, the ease of this recipe is a nice break from what I usually cook.

Instant Pot. I have used a pressure cooker before, but the ease of the Instant Pot and other brands like it have made it much more accessible and less intimidating than its predecessors. Also, the fact that I can take a big, tough chunk of meat like a chuck roast and cook it for a little over an hour and it be fork tender is a huge benefit for those times I don’t want to baby sit a traditional crock pot for 8 hours.

Ropa Vieja


2 tbsp. olive oil
3-5lb Chuck Roast (you can sub a pork roast if desired)
1 large tomato – diced
3 carrots – diced
3 celery stalks – diced
1 Poblano pepper – julienned (cut into strips)
1 large yellow onion – julienned
1 each red, yellow, orange bell pepper – julienned
3 garlic cloves – minced
1 cup green olives – left whole
1 lime – squeezed
¼ cup fresh oregano
2 bunches cilantro – chopped
1 tbsp. dry oregano
¼ cup cumin powder
1 tbsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 ½ tbsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 – 28oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 – 6oz can tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock – I use “better than bouillon”


-Season the chuck roast generously with kosher salt and coarse black pepper.
-In Instant Pot, push the sauté button and pour about 2 tbsp. olive oil.
-When oil is hot, brown all sides of the roast.
-Add in all other ingredients, give a good stir, and lock the lid.
-Set the Instant Pot for 60 minutes.
-When time is up and safe to remove lid, remove lid and shred roast with fork or tongs.
-Serve over steamed rice.

This recipe makes enough for a small army and leftovers freeze really well.
*Please use caution and follow directions for safe use of your Instant Pot.

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Stephanie January 18, 2018 at 11:48 am

Gonna start calling you “Pot Boss”

Jean January 19, 2018 at 7:07 am

OMGosh!!! This sounds amazing. Going to try it ASAP! Thanks

WooPigFoodie January 26, 2018 at 9:38 am

I’d really love the recipe for your green cilantro-y sauce. I bet the Ropa Vieja would be great the next day in some warm homemade flour tortillas topped with your green sauce and a little freshly diced white onion.

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