Cuban Shredded Beef
Why This Recipe Works
Vaca frita is a Cuban classic that features beef (usually flank steak) that’s been boiled, shredded, and fried so that the exterior develops a deep crust; it’s flavored with lime juice and garlic. Since developing a deep crust on the meat usually renders it dry, we wanted to refine the meat’s texture to develop textural contrast: a good exterior crust and a moister, more tender interior. For that reason, we start with a collagen-rich chuck-eye roast, cutting it into 1½-inch cubes to reduce the cooking time and gently simmering it (instead of boiling it, to prevent moisture loss) before pounding it flat—a method that’s much more efficient than shredding the pieces by hand. To reinforce the beefy flavor, we fry the meat, along with some thin-sliced onion (a classic element of vaca frita), in its own fat before finishing everything with garlic dressing and citrus juices (lime as well as orange, to mellow the lime’s acidity but maintain brightness).