My yuca hopes

I hope I’ve tantalized your tastes buds with my previous posts about this lovely root.¬†#1, #2
I hope it has made you curious enough to go forth and find some in your grocery store or market.
I hope you’ve scoured the web looking for more yuca recipes.
I hope you are ecstatic to find out it works for desserts too.
Those are a few of my hopes where yuca is concerned. Well, no. I really REALLY hope you’ll give it a try. Really.

Now, let’s talk about Enyucado, or as any good Panamanian would say it ‘Enyucao’. I’m not sure I’ll be able to adequately describe the delicious piece of earthly goodness. As I mentioned, it is a dessert. It has yuca and coconut and butter. Not just butter, but buttah! It is sweet and gooey. See, yuca is very starchy. In fact, its starch is used to make tapioca, I think that starchiness¬†contributes to the gooeyness¬†of the dessert. Then the buttah and sugar make the edges caramelize and it all becomes a mess of sticky goodness.

For the Enyucado, the yuca and coconut are shredded, which means there’s a bit of effort that goes into the dessert, but that is it. Once you have that part taken care of, the rest is a zinch. I promise. And it is oh so good!

Enyucado (Yuca Cake)

2 cps yuca, shredded
2 cps fresh coconut, shredded
1-1/2 cps sugar
1/2 cp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cp raisins
2 tbsp anise liqueur or extract (I used Galliano)

Preheat oven to 350¬į and generously butter a 9×13 baking pan; set aside. Combine all the ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved and everything is well incorporated. Pour into the baking pan and pop it in the oven. It will bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Allow it to cool before slicing into squares. For more shots, check out the set here, and to figure out how to shell a coconut, click here.

Cookingly yours,


One potato, two potatoes, YUCA!

I thought I would trick you into reading this one. It’s not so much tricking as it is deceiving. The truth is, yuca is the Latin Americans’ potato. Both are tubers. They have similar textures, although yuca is more fibrous. And they could probably be swapped out in most dishes.

Today I’m going to share with you two variations in the way we prepare yuca throughout Latin America. First, let me redirect you to a post from months ago. It walks you through the process of choosing, peeling and cooking yuca. Once you have that part done, then you can move on to one of these methods. Yuca con mojo is essentially a garlicky plate of yuca. Mojo is Latin-Caribbean sauce/dressing that is spooned over foods in Cuba and Puerto Rico, especially. The other variation would be Yuca Fries with Spicy Mayo-Ketchup dipping sauce. No real recipes here, just a bit of this and a pinch of that.

Yuca con Mojo

1 lb yuca, cooked and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp garlic puree
Sea salt
Juice of 1 lime
2/3 cp olive oil
1/2 cp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Keep the yuca warm or prepare the mojo while they cook. Heat up a small pan over medium temperature and add the minced garlic, make sure to stir it constantly to avoid burning it. Once that garlic softens, add the garlic puree and lime juice. Stir until well blended and cook for about 5 minutes over medium low temperature. Add half of the parsley and season with salt. Remove it from the heat.

Drizzle over the warm yuca and serve with another sprinkling of parsley. YUM!

Yuca Fries with Spicy Mayo-Ketchup

1 lb yuca, parboiled and cut into thick fries
Vegetable oil for frying
Sea salt
1 cp real mayonnaise
1/4 cp Ketchup
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsps habanero hot sauce
1 tsp sugar

Fry the yuca in enough oil to cover them, make sure the yuca has had a chance to cool before frying. It will take about 5 minutes to fry them to a golden brown. In the meantime, combine the rest of the ingredients and whisk them together. Check the seasoning and add a bit of salt IF necessary. Don’t forget you’ll salt the yuca after it has fried.

Serve as dipping sauce for the fries. By the way, both of these sauces/dips go incredibly well with potatoes and plantains. You can see more hunger-inducing shots here.

Cookingly yours,

Latin Fries, por favor.

Of course, the most popularly known are the French Fries, which aren’t really French, but I digress. In Panama, we eat tons of Yuca Frita (Fried Yuca). Sometimes they look like steak fries, or they may be chuncks of yuca. Regardless of how they’re cut, they’re delicious.

Check out this post for help picking and peeling the yuca. Once you’ve peeled the yuca, all you need to do is parboil it before frying.

In a medium pan, bring water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Then add the yuca, you don’t need to cut them to the size desired at this time. Allow it cook at a medium boil for about 8 minutes or until you’re able to pierce the flesh with a knife.

Remove from the water, drain and allow it cool before frying. Cut the yuca to the desired size. Heat up enough oil to deep fry the pieces, the oil’s temperature should be at 400¬į. Fry the yuca until golden brown, remove from the fryer and¬†¬†shake off excess oil. At this point you can reason with a little coarse salt.

Serve warm.

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

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,