Chef School – Lesson 3

I want to take you back to the tropics and talk about another root/tuber. Let’s talk about Otoe aka Malanga, Yautia¬†¬†¬†

What is it?  

  

Otoe or Malanga has a brown, sorta hairy peel which is barely thicker than that of a potato. There are a few different varietals, some will have white flesh, while others have a beautiful purplish pink flesh. Both of them are speckled by little brown dots that look like pepper. The texture of malanga when cooked is very similar to a potato. It is often ground into a paste that can be made into flour.   

  

How do I select it?  

Squeeze it. Look for firm, well-formed tubers, free of blemishes. Malanga should be firm without any soft spots. It has a short shelf life, so make sure to make use of them as quickly as possible.  

How do I cook it?  

First, you need to peel it; a potato peeler works quite well. Use caution when peeling as the flesh tends to have a bit of slickness once the peel is removed. Trim both ends and any unsightly spots. Rinse and cube as needed.  

Once cooked, otoe will still have a slightly lilac color

 

Last week I provided some tips for picking yuca, check that post here.

Chef School – Lesson 2

This week I thought I’d share some tips to keep in mind when picking and preparing¬†some of the tubers I’ve used in my recipes. Specifically, yuca.

I mentioned some of it when I wrote about the Lentil Soup, but I became quickly aware that it may be a bit overwhelming. Instead, I will go into greater detail here. This will serve as a good reference place when you pick these up.

Let’s start with Yuca (aka Cassava¬†or Manioc).

What is it?

  • a shrub most common in Central and South America
  • a highly starchy tuberous root¬†
  • a great source of¬† carbs
  • the flour produced from it is tapioca¬†
  • has a dark brown, thick peel and milky white flesh when raw

How do I pick it?

If you’re buying it fresh, not frozen, you’ll have to inspect the roots. I’m not certain why, but here in the US they cover the outer skin with a thick waxy film. Here’s what I suggest:

  • check the peel–make sure it is evenly colored, without any dry or gray, ashy areas

  • pick thinner roots, no more than 3-inches in diameter
  • break it. You heard me. Break the root in half; you’ll feel¬†like¬†Superman

  • look at the flesh.¬†You want it to be¬†milky white and without blemishes. If it has black spots that look like pepper, skip it. Put it down and move on to another root. If it looks good, take it home

How do I peel it?

The peel is quite thick, it cannot be removed with a¬†peeler. Here’s what you do:

  • cut the yuca into manageable sections; about 2-inches long

  • using a sharp knife, cut a slit from top to bottom on the peel of each section. The peel consists of 2 layers: the top layer is dark brown and thin. The 2nd layer is pinkish and tough. Make sure you slit through the 2nd layer until you hit the fleshy part

  • use the sharp edge of the knife and push the peel away

  • if you find any blemishes after¬†peeling, shave them off with the knife¬†

That’s it, you’re ready to cook it.

Check out Lesson 3, it’s all about Otoe.

Take this, Old Man Winter!

Is it cold where you are? It seems to be freezing almost everywhere in the US. Today in Houston the high was 32¬į! That’s definitely cold by Houston standards.

I’m not complaining, though. I LOVE it cold. I don’t know why, but I do. Cold makes me happy. Being able to say I’m cold makes me happier. It’s weird, I know, but it’s my thing. And I like my thing.

In any case, this kind of weather makes me think of hearty soups. I made a batch of my all time fave last night. Sopa de lentejas or lentil soup; Panamanian style, of course. This one is made rich with yuca and malanga (we call it otoe in Panama).

A bit about the ingredients:

Yuca¬†or cassava is a tuber with dark brown, thick peel and milky white flesh when raw. Once cooked–and it can be¬†prepared¬†many different¬†ways, including as dessert–the flesh turns a yellowish cream, becomes quite translucent around the edges. It is quite a bit more dense than a potato and has a slight sweetness.

Malanga is also a tuber, but its peel is barely thicker than that of a potato. There are a couple of varietals, some will have white flesh, while others have a beautiful purplish pink flesh. Both of them are speckled by little brown dots that look like pepper. The texture of malanga when cooked is very similar to a potato.

Beef: as with any soup, bones add a great deal of flavor to the broth. In this case I opted for short ribs to take advantage of those great bones. I also used some chuck roast to ensure we had plenty of meaty bites. I suggest browning the beef before starting the soup, this will also add another dimension of taste.

Vegetables/tubers: I recommend cooking the tubers in stages. I add 1/2 of them when I start the beef and lentils, and add the rest on the last 40 minutes of cooking.

OK, let’s do it!

Sopa de Lentejas (Lentil Soup)
1 lb chuck roast, cubed
4 beef short ribs (about 1lb)
2 cps dry lentils
2 lbs yuca (about 3 cps)
1 lb malanga (about 1-11/2 cps)
2 medium carrots
1/2 whole head garlic
1 cp cilantro, leaves and stems
2 cubes beef boullion
Water
Oil

Preparation – about 30 minutes:
Beef: Liberally season the beef and ribs with salt and pepper, set it aside while you get the other ingredients ready.

Lentils: Remove any damaged lentils or debris and rinse in cool water. Add enough water to cover and allow them to soak. Set aside.

Peel the vegetables:
Yuca-as I mentioned, the peel is quite thick and I’ve noticed that here in the US they cover it with a waxy film. Cut the yuca into sections about 2-inches long. Using a sharp knife, slit the peel of each section. You should know that the peel has 2 layers; the top layer is dark brown and not too thick. The 2nd layer is pinkish and this is the tougher one. Make sure you slit through the 2nd layer until you hit the fleshy part.
At this point, use the sharp edge of the knife and push through the 2nd layer. Rinse and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Malanga-peel using a potato peeler. Use some caution, as it tends to have a bit of slickness once the peel is removed. Rinse and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Carrots-peel and cut into rounds.

For the soup: Heat up a large stockpot and add about 1 tsp of oil, smear it around. Brown the beef and ribs on both sides. Once all the beef is browned, drain and add the lentils, 1/2 of the yuca and malanga, all the carrots, the stemmy end of the cilantro, and the boullion. Fill the pot with water, about 12-15 cps or so.

Allow it to come to a boil, and remove the foam that forms at the top when it boils. Lower the temperature to medium and allow it to come to a strong simmer. Stir it every few minutes, you want to make sure the lentils are not sticking to the bottom of the pan as that would cause the soup to scorch.

Allow it to simmer slowly for about 1-1/2 hrs for the beef to soften. At that time, remove the head of garlic, then add the rest of the tubers and cilantro. Check the seasoning and adjust at will. Allow it to cook for another 30 minutes or so. If you used boned short ribs, you can pull those out to remove the bones and cut the meat to bite-size portions.

Serve with white rice and enjoy!
Cookingly yours,
Anamaris