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Cuban-Style Yucca

February 23, 2016

FEBRUARY 21st, 2016 — Recipes from my New Year’s trip to Cuba! This Asian girl couldn’t get a successful handle on rice and beans yet, so we’re starting with yucca, a root vegetable that makes frequent appearances on Caribbean tables. It’s unassumingly light (because it’s not as starchy as are potatoes) and, if dressed with tangy Cuban dressing, really delightful.IMG_8996

I had this with some beans and rice for a late lunch in Havana at a paladar (read: privately–not government-owned–restaurant).

In the States, you probably will not find yucca [YOO-kah] at a regular grocery store. Head to a Latin or Asian (as yucca does appear in Filipino cuisine) market.

So what did you do?
First I quartered the yucca and chopped them into spears, like you would a cucumber. I found this recipe helpful with regards to how to peel the yucca, which has 2 peels: an outer layer like tree bark, and a thicker, inner pink layer. Both need to be peeled. This is a bit laborious, but it was not as unwieldy as I was anticipating. A big sharp knife with which you can make whacking motions (just short of a machete, basically,) at the yucca is almost essential, since the yucca is quite solid when raw.

Tip: The recipe I just linked informed me that yucca, like potatoes, oxidize when exposed to air and turn an unsightly brown, so you can’t pre-cut your yucca very far in advance of cooking it. In fact, you really should have a large bowl of cold water in which to submerge your cut morsels while you’re working on mutilating the rest.

Then I boiled the yucca in water for about 30 minutes, or until tender. I didn’t salt the water or anything because I was going to dress it with some Cuban dressing.

For the dressing, I first finely chopped 4 cloves of garlic and placed those into a small pitcher.

I then added and whisked:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar (<–ideally white vinegar if you have that on hand, but I didn’t so I made do)
  • 1/3 cup lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt

Turns out, I only had about 1/3 cup of lemon juice, so I used orange juice for the remainder. Still turned out awesome.

I also sautéed some onions and green peppers to go as a topper.

When the yucca was ready, I let the yucca cool down a bit, and then tossed it with the dressing, onions & peppers, and finally capers.

Cuban_YuccaYeah, yucca isn’t particularly attractive, but this was probably my favorite side dish from the trip.

Lessons learned?
Apparently, as I was informed by a Cuban friend after the fact, yucca comes in pre-peeled and pre-cut bags in the freezer aisle. Oh.

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