Spicy Yuca Fries with Garlic Sauce make for a really interesting and unexpected side dish.
First, a little history on this recipe:
Last year, my good friend Mel Joulwan (Well Fed, Well Fed 2, Well Fed Weeknights) asked me to collaborate with her on a 6-installment recipe column in Paleo Magazine. I jumped at the chance because I’m a huge fan of Mel’s work, and she’s one of the people in this community who hasn’t sold out. (Sad maybe, but true.)
Mel proposed that she would write the recipes, and I’d take the photos. Sold.
This recipe for Spicy Yuca Fries and Garlic Sauce first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Paleo Magazine, and it was a thrill to see my photo there in full color.
“So,” you might be wondering, “what’s yuca?”
“Before we delve into the history of this irresistible root vegetable, a vocabulary explanation. Yuca is pronounced YOO-ka and has many other names, including cassava, manioc, mandioca, casabe, and tapioca.
It should not be confused with yucca (pronounced YUCK-ah), an ornamental plant you might have in a rock garden in your yard (although you might see yuca misspelled on restaurant menus and online recipes because translation can be inconsistent).
The edible yuca root is usually about six to 10 inches long and three inches in diameter. Covered in brown, bark-like skin, it resembles a miniaturized baseball bat. Inside, it’s chalky in both color and texture when raw, but turns meltingly tender and translucent after it’s cooked.
Because the flesh bruises easily, it’s usually coated in wax when sold in the U.S., and you’ll find it in the produce section of the grocery store amid the other tropical imports like plantain, mango, and papaya.
Loaded with Vitamin C, one cup of yuca provides more than 70% of the daily requirement, along with thiamin, folate, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. It’s also an excellent anti-inflammatory and contains muscle-soothing compounds called saponins.
Yuca delivers a big dose of resistant starch when cooked, cooled, and reheated—which makes yuca fries an ideal food for modern Paleo eaters.
The yuca root can be a little unwieldy at first, but once it’s peeled, it feels a lot like a potato. When buying yuca, look for firm roots without soft spots, and always buy more than you think you need because once it’s peeled, you might find some flaws inside.
The peeled flesh should be pure white; if it has dark streaks running through it, it’s past its prime. Just cut the darkened section away and carry on.
To prep the yuca, cut the root cross-wise into pieces that feel manageable, then use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the outer bark. Once it’s peeled, you can easily cut it into your preferred shape and get cookin’.”
Preheat oven to 450°F and cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Peel yuca with a vegetable peeler to remove the waxy skin. Cut in half crosswise to make it easier to manage, then slice in half length-wise. Cut into ¼-inch thick fry strips.
Place fries in a large pot, cover with cold water, and add the salt. Bring to a boil and cook 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Drain fries and place in a large bowl. Toss with fat until coated, then spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Roast 10-15 minutes, until beginning to brown, then flip and roast an additional 10-15 minutes. When they’re crisped the way you like them, remove from oven and sprinkle with spices and lime zest. Serve immediately.
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and purée, or place in a jar and whirl with a stick blender. Store covered in the fridge; serve at room temperature.
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