Vaca Frita Recipe By Douglas Rodriguez

A star chef refines a Cuban classic

Chef Douglas Rodriguez brought his "Nuevo Latino" cooking into the mainstream back in the '90s, and he continues to shape the genre. At his latest restaurant, D. Rodriguez Cuba, the chef modernizes the classics of his Cuban heritage. Here, he gives a Miami makeover to traditional vaca frita: He first braises skirt steak in an intensely flavored broth, then sears the steak whole (it's usually shredded), and ultimately crowns it with sautéed onions. Try this meal–with a side of beans and rice, of course–as the centerpiece to your Memorial Day gathering.

Recipe adapted from Douglas Rodriguez, D. Rodriguez Cuba, Miami

Vaca Frita
5 from 2 ratings
Douglas Rodriguez's recipe for vaca frita from Miami's D. Rodriguez Cuba restaurant
Prep Time
Cook Time
to 8 servings
Total time: 0 minutes
  • 4 pounds skirt steak (approximately 2 whole skirt steaks)
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons whole allspice berries
  • 3 tablespoons whole cloves
  • ¼ cup ground oregano
  • 6 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 20 bay leaves
  • 6 tablespoons onion powder
  • 6 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 6 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the steaks so they fit side-by-side in a large roasting pan. Place the meat in the pan.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the peppercorns, allspice, cloves, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, onion powder, mustard powder, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks and ginger until finely ground. Add the vinegar, Worcestershire, salt and water, and pulse to combine. Pour the spiced liquid over the meat, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 2½ hours. Remove from the oven and let cool in the braising liquid for 1 hour. Carefully remove from the liquid and pat dry.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over high heat until it just starts to smoke. In batches, carefully place the skirt steak in the pan and sear for 1 minute, then flip and cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer the steak to a cutting board. Add the red onions and lime juice to the skillet and sauté over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.
  4. Transfer the steak to a platter, top with the onions and serve immediately.
Rate this recipe