This version of ropa vieja (“old clothes”) — a Cuban dish of shredded beef in a piquant tomato sauce — has a deep, slow-cooked flavour we would never expect from a microwave. You don’t have to brown the steak first; just let it bubble in the sauce until it’s tender enough to shred. Serve it over rice to soak up the sauce.
Cook’s Note: The cooking times in this recipe are for an 1,100-watt oven.
Toss the onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a microwave-safe 4-quart bowl. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap; cut a small slit in the centre with the tip of a paring knife to vent excess steam. Microwave on high (at 100 percent power) until the onions are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. (See Cook’s Note re cooking times.) If the onions aren’t cooked through, cover and microwave again in 30-second increments. (When removing the plastic wrap, be careful to avoid the hot steam.)
Add the tomatoes, beef broth, red peppers, soy sauce, bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Stir, then nestle in the steak. Tightly cover the bowl with 2 pieces of plastic wrap; cut a small slit in the centre. Microwave on high (at 100 percent power) for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the plastic wrap (the bowl will be very hot), stir and cover again. Microwave on high (at 100 percent power) for another 20 minutes. Uncover the bowl, and let cool for 5 minutes.
Remove the steak with a slotted spoon onto a cutting board. (It will not be fall-apart tender at this stage but should be shreddable.) Using two forks, shred the steak; return it to the bowl, and stir in the olives. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap, cut a small slit in the centre and microwave at 100 percent power for 5 minutes. Let the ropa vieja sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, and serve with rice.