Dinner on the Farm with Chef Jorge Guzman of Solera in Minneapolis
In Spanish, ropa vieja translates to “old clothes.” Regardless of the translation it has become an incredibly popular dish in the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba. What most people don’t know is that this dish is rooted in Spanish tradition originating in the Canary Islands.
The Canary Islands was the last place ships from Spain would stop on the way to the Americas and the first stop Spanish ships would stop en route back to Spain. The original version of ropa vieja from the Canary Islands contained shredded meat with chickpeas and potatoes. On its way through the Caribbean, the dish has picked up ingredients such as black beans, white rice, fried plantains and sometimes small arepas. Ropa vieja is so popular in the Caribbean that the dish is a national feature of Cuba.
At Solera, we have chosen to use pork tenderloin that has been marinated in achiote, which is an influence directly from Chef Guzman’s childhood, as he grew up in the Yucatan. The piperade sauce, traditionally Basque, helps impart a savory sweet acidity to the dish, which would originally come from braising the meat. Using chickpeas as a puree is directly influenced by the original dish. Even the garnish, fried cilantro, is influenced by the Canary Islands as the use of cilantro is almost exclusive to the Canary Islands when it comes to traditional Spanish cooking.
Chef Jorge Guzman believes in cuisine that is simple, traditional, uniquely approachable, and most importantly, sustainable. After graduating from Drake University and The Culinary Institute of America in New York, he spent a few years working in Charleston, Denver, and Chicago. He then landed as the Executive Chef at Tejas in 2007 and Chef de Cuisine at the Corner Table in 2009.