I’m a Southern girl. Most Southern girls know their way around food. Those of us with country grandmas stood in the kitchen from the time we were knee high to a grasshopper learning how to cook.

And then there’s me.

My grandma tried, but she didn’t have much to work with. The rest of my family knew it. Grandma said once that anyone who can read a recipe can cook, to which my dad, rest his soul, replied, “You’ve never had her cooking.” Sigh.

But finally, 20 years after my grandma died, I got the hang of it. I learned that the number one rule in cooking is to stay in the kitchen. Trust me on this one. If you wander off to do the laundry, there will be a smoke alarm involved. 

And pizza ordered. 


So after I finally got the golden rule of cooking settled in my head, cooking became an accomplishment I could be proud of, and meals at my house got a lot better. I have actually traveled a lot, and I’ve picked up recipes from a lot of places. I bring those home and add some of grandma’s down home goodness to it. Now, I’ve gone from creating epic disasters to having our children come over just so they can have some of whatever’s for dinner. Of course, they could just be hungry. They’re barely out of their teens, and good lord, nothing eats like a teenager. They’re like locusts.

But still. Yay, me! 

I’ve decided to start with a recipe that only recently made its way into regular rotation.This is my take on Vaca Frita, a Cuban meat dish. Fortunately for everyone at my house, my husband owns a butcher shop, so a good roast is never in short supply. We eat a lot of meat in the South. In fact, I don’t think we have many vegetarians in Southern Alabama. There’s one that shops at my husband’s butcher shop. I know, right? She’s a vegetarian, but her husband is not. What an awesome marriage those two must have. I’m serious about that. Kudos. But she’s the only vegetarian I’ve heard rumors of around here.

So grab a fork (if it turns out right, you won’t need a knife), and dive into this awesome Cuban cuisine.


Vaca Frita
2 lb. Chuck Roast
1 Bell pepper
1 large yellow onion
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic (you can also used minced garlic)
6 T. lime juice
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Core and quarter bell pepper. Remove skin from onion and cut in half. Place chuck roast in crock pot with a cup of water, one half of the onion, and the bay leaf the bell pepper sections. Cook on high heat for 4 to 5 hours. 
When the roast is done, turn it onto a cutting board and shred. Place the shredded pieces into a bowl. Cut the onions into slivers and add them to the beef. Smash the garlic into a paste and add it to the mixture, along with the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients well, cover, and let sit for at least an hour. 
After the mixture has had time to marinate, heat a skillet or griddle until hot. Spoon the beef onto the griddle and spread into a layer and add additional salt and pepper, as desired. Don’t pile it up–the meat is already cooked, so your goal is just to brown it. When the bottom has been browned and a bit crispy, flip and brown the other side. Then remove while you brown the remainder of the meat. 
Serve with black beans (lots of cumin and a little lime juice makes black beans a really good complement) and rice.