This dish is a perfect instance of where few and simple ingredients come together and become amazingly, astonishingly flavorful. It's fantastic on its own with a side of rice, but also makes for a good burrito meat as it can be stretched while still providing a flavor punch. Enjoy!
Cuban shredded beef
2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, pulled apart at the seams, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2 in pieces
Salt & pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
2 tbs orange juice
1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest, plus 1 tbs juice, plus wedges for serving
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
2 tbs sherry
Place beef, 2 cups water, and 1 1/4 tsp salt in 12in nonstick skillet* over medium-high heat. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until beef is very tender. This should take about 1 hour and 45 min*. Check beef every 30min to monitor the water level*. Add more if necessary to keep the bottom third of the beef submerged.
While beef simmers, combine garlic, oil, and cumin in a small bowl. Combine orange juice, lime zest, and lime juice in another small bowl. Set aside.
When beef is done cooking, remove lid from the skillet, increase heat to medium, and cook off the remaining water. This should take 3 to 8 minutes, and the beef will start to sizzle. Use a slotted spoon to transfer beef to rimmed baking sheet. Pour off and reserve fat* from skillet. Rinse skillet & dry.
Cover the beef with a sheet of aluminum foil and pound into 1/8in thick pieces with a meat pounder or heavy skillet. Some of the beef should break down into shreds. Use two forks to break down larger chunks*. Discard any large pieces of fat or connective tissue.
Heat 1 1/2 tsp of reserved fat in rinsed & dried skillet over high heat. When it begins to sizzle, add onion and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook until golden brown and charred in spots, stirring occasionally. This should take 5-8 minutes. Add sherry and 1/4 cup water and cook until water evaporates, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Return skillet to high heat. Add 1 1/2 tsp reserved fat and heat until sizzling. Add beef and cook until dark, golden brown and crusty. This should take 2-4 minutes.
Reduce heat to low. Push beef to outer edges of the skillet, clearing the center. Add garlic mixture to the center and cook until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat, add orange juice mixture and onion, and toss everything together to combine. Season with pepper and serve with lime wedges.
I don't own any nonstick pans. A dutch oven worked just fine and so would a cast iron skillet.
About the 1 hour and 45 min boiling time -- I find meat can often take longer to get very, very tender. If cooking with a specific dinner time in mind, I'd recommend planning an extra 30min buffer just in case.
It's helpful to monitor how hard the water is simmering too. My stovetop is quite finicky and requires regular checking in to maintain a gentle simmer. I had to crack the lid to do so.
The times I've made this, I haven't had any fat to reserve. (Did I trim the meat too thoroughly?) If that happens to you, just use olive oil in place of the fat later in the recipe.
When I've made this, I've ended up with quite a lot of larger chunks. My preference is mostly shreds, so I liberally used two forks to break everything down.
Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated September & October 2013 Magazine