Thursday, February 16, 2012

oven-crisped yuca fries

By Julie

It's a little weird when the checkout people at the grocery store routinely have to ask me, with a furrowed brow, what various produce items are that I buy. Then they flip through their produce code book and ask me how the hell you cook xyz. Like yuca. If someone who rings up the groceries of hundreds of people every single day seems to have never seen a yuca root, I can only wonder how long it's been sitting in the store. I guess that's why there's usually wax on the outside of them. Ew. It's also weird that yuca is poisonous raw. Humans are so strange. Do other animals have to take preventative measures to safely eat foods they regularly consume? I guess my cats have a pretty good barf reflex when they eat something that they somehow know will make them sick. Don't feed beef to your cats. I don't know why they can't eat it, but the barf tells me it's true.
I've had an obsession with yuca for nearly as long as my obsession with plantains. I used to get it at my favorite little Venezuelan place in Boston that was dangerously close to my house. Fried yuca and fried plantains are a freaking amazing bad way to stuff your face. Joe made me dinner the other weekend and he tried to make these cheesy yuca turnover things, but do it newyearnewyou compliant. It definitely turned out not like a turnover, but pretty awesome nonetheless. Boiled, then puréed yuca chunks into this super stretchy, starchy goop and then attempted to pan crisp it with questionable success. It was, and I say this lovingly, a very typical Joe meal of a I told you it wasn't a good idea turned fuck-it mash-in-a-pan. But I gobbled it up like the starch crazed monster that I am. Starch and salt. And fat. And sugar. I love you all.
Most people deep fry yuca, if they're going the crispy route. I can't justify using up that much oil. You definitely get a different texture oven-crisping the fries, but it's still good and crispy and delicious. You could also pan-fry them, but using your oven is just so easy. There's a tough fiber running down the middle of the root that you're not really going to want to eat. You can either try to cut it away before you boil the fries, after when they're softer.... or just when you're eating them. That's what I did. Oh, ack, this is tough, okay eating around this. Peeling the root is about as annoying as a butternut squash. Less so, I think, because there's no giant bulb to combat with. God I hate that butternut squash bulb. And the seeding? WORST. And squash juice makes your hands feel so freaking weird. What is that??

oven-crisped yuca fries with lime

1 big yuca root, like 2 lbs., but whatever you can find
lard or bacon grease
sea salt
fresh lime juice

1. Peel your yuca root with a vegetable peeler. There's the outer brown skin, then a purple-y layer underneath. Get down to the white. Cut into 1/2 inch thick, several inches long fries, cutting around any brown spots or anything gross. Again, I have no idea how long my root was sitting in that grocery store...

2. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Put your fries in a pot of salted, cold water to cover, bring to a boil and boil for about 12 minutes, until they're tender when pierced with a fork.

3. Drain the yuca, put back in the pot and mix around several tablespoons of pig fat until they appear to be very nicely coated with fat. You can add more, no one's watching.

4. Place yuca in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Flip them over and bake for about another 12 - 15 minutes until nice and lightly browned.

Squeeze copious amounts of lime juice over the fries and sprinkle coarse sea salt on top. Perfect with fatty, crispy pork. Or anything. By themselves. Don't eat too many.

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