Brazilian Feast Part II

brazilian mandioca

For Part II of this Brazilian Feast, I’m handing over my favorite mandioca goodness.  Have you ever spied a weird waxy, bark-like covered root at the grocery store and wondered what in the world it is and what in the world to do with it?  It’ll be labeled Yucca Root in your grocery store, but it’ll always be mandioca (mahn-gee-yolk-uh) to me.  This is the root of the Yucca, or Cassava plant.  You want to pick a root that is hard and doesn’t have any obvious dry splitting or mushy parts.  It’s kind of impossible to know what it’ll be like on the inside until you get it home and it’s at the mercy of your cutting board.  You only want to keep and prepare the white parts; discard any discolored (brown, green, yellow, etc.) pieces.

Once you cut away the tough exterior you’ll expose its white flesh, which is hard and solid–you don’t want to eat it raw, that’s for sure.  It’s a starch, so cooking it is very much like a potato–it can be mashed, stewed, fried, boiled–and has a very mild, almost sweet flavor.  My two favorite preparations are frying, of course {think a mildly sweet french fry}, and gently boiling it into a stew {think potato soup-ish} to pour over rice.  Starch on starch?  Well, that’s how the Brazilians did it, and that’s how I love it!

Regardless of the preparation, you’ll need to use a very sharp knife to cut the root into manageable pieces and remove the waxy-barky exterior.  FYI:  Throw the scraps in the trash, not your garbage disposal!  I was constantly warned by Brazilians to remove the fibrous string that runs down the center of the root, because it contains cyanide, but I’ve never read anything verifying the cyanide claim…So maybe they were all poking fun at this blonde American?  Whether or not there’s cyanide, it’s still too tough to eat, so cut it out and discard it.  I usually do this step the same way I cut out the core of a pineapple.

brazilian mandioca 1brazilian mandioca 2

brazilian mandioca 4

{The section below is the part I discard}

brazilian mandioca 3

To fry, I cut up equal-sized “sticks”.  You can make them smaller, if you’d like it to be more like a french fry, but I like the thicker cuts because the flesh has such a different flavor.  To make the Mandioca Stew, I chop it into large chunks.

brazilian mandioca 5

brazilian feast 2


MANDIOCA FRITA {Yucca Root Fries}

  • Servings: 1 large root will make 1 large batch of fries, serving 2-4 adults
  • Time: 30-ish minutes
  • Difficulty: pretty, easy, although there are a few steps
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large yucca root
  • oil, deep enough in the pot to cover and fry the fries
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the yucca root by first cutting into thirds.  Cut the waxy bark off and throw away.  One at a time, core each third like coring a pineapple and discard the center core with the fibrous strand.  Cut into equal-sized thick strips for fries.
  2. Place the fries in a large pot and cover with an inch of cold water.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil.  Boil the fries until they are soft–a knife or fork will easily poke them.  Drain and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of vegetable oil, at least 2-3 inches deep, over medium to medium-high heat.  If you have a candy thermometer keep it on the side of the pot and when the oil reaches 375F, you can start frying.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the oil will be ready when you stick the end of a wooden spoon in the oil and bubbles form around the spoon.  Fry in batches so the oil temperature doesn’t drop too low.  Fry until golden brown and scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon onto a cooling rack with paper towels underneath (this will keep the fries crispier than placing them on just a paper towel).  Sprinkle with salt to taste.

SOPA DE MANDIOCA {Yucca Root Soup}

  • Servings: 1 large root will yield about 4 cups of soup, so 2-4 servings total
  • Time: 30-ish minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large yucca root
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the yucca root by first cutting into thirds.  Cut the waxy bark off and throw away.  One at a time, core each third like coring a pineapple and discard the center core with he fibrous strand.  Dice into equal-sized large chunks.
  2. Coat the bottom of a medium sized pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Saute the onion with salt and pepper to taste until translucent.  Add the yucca root chunks and quickly saute for a few minutes, until all the yucca root is covered and mixed well with the onion.
  3. Add 4 cups water and let come to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and let the soup simmer and reduce, stirring occasionally.  The yucca root will thicken the soup while cooking; you may need to add more water during the cooking process to get the consistency you want.  Ideally, it’ll be a thick stew-like soup to pour over rice.
  4. To serve, you can pour it over rice, or treat it like a potato soup and add your favorite “potato soup toppings”.

 

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2 thoughts on “Brazilian Feast Part II

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