Roasted until slightly crispy, these yucca fries are a fine side served with a pinch of salt and a zesty chimichurri sauce.
By Mariela Alvarez Toro
I was teaching at a graduate university, and part of the course required a week in Rio where we would collaborate with the local architecture studio, tour the city, and see the “site”. I survived on green soup, simple salads, fresh fruit juice, and acai. But, it wasn’t until I ate yucca fries that I fell in love with how Brazilians make the most out of the humblest of ingredients.
That night, as the sun set over our dinner table, I discovered yucca fries, my experience of Brazilian cooking was completely turned around. I forgot about the pork rice, the feijoada, the churrascarias, chicken hearts, and I fell in love with something that was delicious and nutritious out of both necessity and delight.
Yucca is one of those root vegetables I rarely ate as a kid even though it was a local, readily available ingredient. We would eat it boiled with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. I always enjoyed it, but guys, yucca tastes amazing when roasted in the oven until golden and crisp, tender and super starchy.
Chimichurri, though not traditionally Brazilian, elevates this humble dish from delicious to decadent. The tangy-spicy combination of cilantro, garlic, and chili flakes, cuts through yucca’s starchiness and makes for a rather refreshing, flavorful dish.
- 1 large bunch cilantro (about 3 cups chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ tsp. chili flakes
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- 1 whole yucca
- 1 tsp. sea salt, plus more for finishing
- 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
- Place cilantro and garlic in food processor. Pulse several times until well chopped. Transfer to a jar. Add chili flakes, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice yucca crosswise into 6-inch pieces. Depending on the size of the yucca, you might have 2-3 pieces. Place flat side onto a cutting board. Using a sharp knife peel skin off. Slice vertically, into fry-sized pieces. Place in a large pot with enough water to fully cover the yucca by a couple inches. Add sea salt and bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain. Place in a baking sheet with olive oil. Toss until evenly coated. Bake for 20 minutes. Yucca should by slightly golden and crunchy on the outside.
- To assemble, place fries on a plate. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of chimichurri, and a hefty pinch of finish sea salt. Add a few fresh cilantro leaves. Eat immediately.
Recently graduated with from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. She has recently completed "People in Food-Space", an ethnographic study on the cultural production of taste in space. She has also examined post-soviet food production systems and housing projects in Havana, Cuba. Originally from Puerto Rico, Mariela has been living in the United States for eight years. She has involved herself in both teaching and practice, while writing on food at tastyplan.com. Her goal as a food writer is to cook creatively, using the best ingredients to find new flavor combinations every day.