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Yucca Root (aka Cassava) info needed

I used to live in Arlington, VA, and there was this El Salvadoran restaurant (Atlacatl) that prepared yucca root a lot like french fries. They were really spectacular and I've never been able to find them anywhere again. Of course I tried to prepare them 2-3 times over the years but they just were not the same. Can anyone clue me in to the tricks of preparing yucca in this fashion? They appeared to be simply deep fried and served with salsa as a dip, but I'm not certain of that. Also, is there anything to know when selecting yucca in a produce dept?

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  1. I almost forgot - - they serve the darn things free to every customer.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MaxCaviar

      wow, free?! what is the closest cross street on columbia pike, please? ;-)

      as to cooking, you may need to do the proper french fry technique, basically an oil blanch, then cool, then a second deep fry at a higher temp. http://crystalstair.wordpress.com/200...

      or try this new approach, maybe: http://stickycrows.blogspot.com/2006/...

      1. re: alkapal

        sorry, i missed this msg i guess...

        The restaurant is Atlacatl and it's located at 4701 Columbia Pike
        Arlington, VA 22204. Closest cross street is Buchanan.

        1. re: MaxCaviar

          thanks, maxcaviar. best wishes in l.a.

    2. Yucca can be a very fiberous root and you may need to remove the tough core. It is a very hard root as well so take care when cutting it. It is very starchy so you could as with potatoes rinse well in cold water and keep them there if you plan to hold them for any time. You could par boil them prior to frying. Just remember to dry them well.

      You could also skip frying them and just boil them until tender and coat with a sour orange, olive oil and garlic mojo dressing.

      1. Check the frozen food section for them already peeled and ready to cook (follow package directions and skip to putting them into the fridge as follows). If you buy them fresh they should be cut into 2" to 3" long pieces. On the freshly cut end you will see the "ring" of bark that needs to be removed, it is about 1/16' thick, I use a knife or peeler. Once the bark is removed use your knife to score an "X" on each cut end of the yuca pieces (this helps them split later on). Drop them into boiling water and boil until they are soft and can be pierced with a fork or knife (20 to 30 minutes). They may also be splitting open at this point. The yuca can be served at this point with a simple mojo sauce of oil, lime juice, and fresh garlic spooned over the top. For the fries you like the yuca should be put in the fridge to cool. Once it is cooled, and the yuca is firmed up a bit, cut the yuca pieces in halves or quarters (it will naturally let you know what it wants) and remove the fibrous strip out of the very center. Squeeze the quarters (or halves) lightly in your hands to compact them. Drop them in oil to deep fry or you can pan fry in less oil, turning a couple of time until browned or golden. I, personally, like to use a mojo to dip the fried yuca in also, though my cuban ex-gf looked at me like I was putting ketchup on pancakes. You will find that how long you boil them (and how hard you squeeze them) for will vary the consistency of the final product considerably, from denser (less time boiling) to looser (more time). Good luck!

        1. Elgordoboy has good advice. If you need a more specific directions, there's a good recipe for yuca fries on recipzaar.com

          1. I ate a ton of cassava (aka manioc) in the Congo. Without it people would starve. The leaves are delicious, as are the roots. But I always ate cassava cooked by other people; I'm a bit afraid to cook it myself. Both leaves and roots contain cyanide.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassava#...

            2 Replies
            1. re: Brian S

              There are rwo broad classes of cassava--sweet and bitter. The sweet has little cyanic acid and can be cooked and eaten without other processing. As an interesting aside, some women in parts of west Africa prefer bitter cassava because: a) you have an excuse not to dig up some cassava to serve to guests who pop by and b) less is stolen (thieves are usually men who will not do the "womens' work" of processing but who will cook up and eat sweet cassava).

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I had my first taste of fried yucca last Mon. It was about 4 inches long, rectangular shape, with a nice crispy outside. I was surprised to take a bite and find it filled with a sweet creaminess. Very good! And it was offered at the beginning of the meal along with fried polenta, and bananas in a crumb coating and fried. All very good stuff!

            2. Funny you mentioned this. I was just looking at a recipe for this yesterday:
              http://cook-aunaturel.blogspot.com/20...

              2 Replies
              1. re: madgreek

                Yucca chips are fabulous. Sliced thin on a slicer or mandoline (after peeling and keeping in water). Deep fry and salt them right away. Similar to potato chips. Also, I learned of a yucca soup from Brazil that is so hearty and satisfying with chicken stock, tomatoes, garlic. The yucca is in small pieces and slow cooked so it breaks down completely. Has a bit of a viscosity to it so you don't want to over do it with an immersion blender or it will get gummy.

                1. re: lillydaisy

                  mmm, yes, these chips are really good. I've seen them sold in packages, from Indonesia. Cassava cakes are really good too!

                  You can also make tape/tapai :
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapai

                  which is fermented cassava (or rice/sticky rice). It becomes really soft, sweet, and slightly boozy. Really nice.

              2. Folks, just for the record, "yucca" is a cactus. "Yuca" is the food we're talking about.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  There are a lot of ignorant americans, I guess, because even when you google "fried yucca" there are tons of recipes, one even from the food network channel! After I had the fried yuca, I came home and did google it, because I have yucca trees in my yard, so I was curious. I thought maybe I had misunderstood. Now I know why a wikipedia article didn't come up - I misspelled it. Thanks for the info, Sam.

                  1. re: danhole

                    Thanks for all the comments people. Great stuff!

                    For the record, when you google something in English you get more than just Americans.

                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Folks, just for the record, it's both.

                    From Merriam-Webster online:

                    yuc·ca
                    noun \ˈyə-kə\
                    Definition of YUCCA

                    1: any of a genus (Yucca) of sometimes arborescent plants of the agave family that occur in warm regions chiefly of western North America and have long sword-shaped often stiff fibrous-margined leaves on a usually woody base and bear a large panicle of white blossoms

                    2: cassava

                  3. When selecting it in a produce department, you should break the tip off and inspect the root. It should be almost completely white, the more black or brown flecks you see less desireable it is. Sometimes you have to make do with a few minor flecks, but it should also be pure white. What you buy from here can be a bit of a pot shot -- some are more sweet than others, sometimes they don't get very tender. But definitely check it out before buying or if you feel shy to do so, get the frozen. FWIW, I have done best buying yucca by the case (white, sweet, and buttery) but its sort of like buying a side of a cow. If you buy it at the produce counter and find a nice batch, buy extra and freeze it.

                    When frying it, consider frying larger pieces too. I particularly like those compared to small cubes or fries (the chunks goya or la fe frozen packets you can fry whole, just split them in the middle while boiling but make sure its tender already before frying). Its easy to part it into pieces with a large knife -- whack it with the sharp end, then break off that piece flicking your wrist. The skin comes off easily. For a dish where its prominent the fresh is noticably better, but the frozen has the advantage of being consistent and so is a fine substitute.

                    Yuca is the Spanish spelling (and only one of several spanish names I believe), but the Yucca spelling is in my opinion an attempt to make sure that Americans give it that hard C sound (ask your friends to pronounce machaca and see how many get it right). Its quite common -- goya uses it on just about all their packaging, I don't think its ignorant to use that and its something that has a lot of names. Mandioca/aipim/macaxeira are Brazilian names for it.

                    (I normally try to avoid replying to slightly older threads, but I ran across this by accident and nobody had answered the question about what to look for in the produce department.)

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: itaunas

                        thanks itaunas! is there any verdict as to buying the fatter, shorter pieces versus the longer, skinnier ones?

                        also, i have heard that fresh aipim/yuca/yucca does not keep well and should be cooked immediately after purchasing. is this true? is there a good estimate on shelf life? and how do you know when it's past it's prime?

                        thanks!

                        1. re: turtl_girl

                          I sometimes like to get the long skinny ones, which are convenient for frying in larger pieces (and maybe a bit easier to see that they aren't bad -- breaking the thin tip off a thick yucca can be deceiving). And the larger ones are easier to grate for making a cake. But otherwise the are equivalent, even for peeling so I just look for anything that seems fresher (the flesh, how good the outer skin looks, how crisply it breaks).

                          Once you break the tip off the yucca, if you don't use that part soon it is going to go brown so you'll lose a bit and if you leave it in a plastic bag at room temperature, the additional moisture could cause it to get moldy with time.

                          I don't know much about cellaring yucca as I don't think its common for human consumption at least in Brazil (I have certainly heard about it for feeding pigs). By the time it reaches here, certainly that which is imported from south america has travelled a lot so the condition varies. If you buy a fresh case of Yucca and store it in a restaurant fridge, it can certainly last a few weeks. So unpeeled from the supermarket might be ok a week or so loose in your fridge. However, you have no idea if the root is good or filled with black flecks and you are probably going to lose some, perhaps even 40% or more with a bad batch. Look for the brown/black flecks and any mold, flesh which has gotten more off-white/yellowish, tough pieces, but otherwise its probably ok.

                          I would suggest breaking the tips in the supermarket to find the best. If you have time, peel them when you get home and store them in water in the fridge to use in the next few days. Or keep them loose in the fridge, cut any brown off the tip and still use them in a few days. If you find a really nice batch, peel it and freeze it for later use.

                      2. I have a 2 pound yucca in the fridge now. I'll boil it, peel it, cut it up, fry pieces in 1/2 inch of oil until crispy outside, place on paper towels, salt it and eat while hot/warm with soft center. Fun stuff and tasty. Needs salt.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Veggo

                          I do the same but peel first. Cut off both end, peel, slice in half (to achieved doneness evenly and quickly), boil for about 25 mins, cool completely, then fry briefly till golden. Needs salt but also Tony Chachere or chaat masala are good on it, too.

                          1. re: luckyfatima

                            Just to be clear, cut up into lengthwise pieces, like you'd get in a Peruvian chicken place? Or slices?

                            I've stared longingly at yucca pieces in the supermarket but have never actually cooked one.

                            1. re: tcamp

                              Length wise, yes. Let me attach a picture, I know I have one.

                              I should clarify that I cut the whole thing in half first before boiling, but I don't cut the yuca into wegdes for frying until after boiling and cooling.