Recipe of the Week: Yuca Croquettes

This TreeHugger is a big believer in buying local, seasonal produce to feed the family. But this week I tried something that is certainly not native to Ontario – yuca. While grocery shopping with my daughter we spied a display of the root. Having spent a month in Equador last year, she ate quite a bit of yuca there. She was excited to see something she ate in the Amazon on offer in a Toronto market and was keen to have her family try it. So root in hand, I started checking out my various cookbooks to see how I should cook the thing and found lots of useful information. Yuca is also known as cassava or manioc and is the source of tapioca. The yuca must be cooked. It is toxic if eaten raw. To peel it you chop it into three or so inch lengths. Then cut lengthwise through the peel and through the pink layer below it to the white flesh. Then simply wedge your knife between the pink layer and the flesh and pull back the peel. The recipe my daughter chose for me to make with her tuberous treat was quite fun to make. If you ever enjoyed finger painting or working in clay, or if you have a small cook with willing hands, this is the recipe for you. The drawback of this recipe is the length of time it takes. The active working time isn’t much and it certainly isn’t hard, but there is a lot of cooling time between steps.

Yuca Croquettes
3/4 pound yuca, peeled and cut into 3 inch pieces
2 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 medium clove garlic, chopped
¼ pound smoked ham (optional)
1 ¼ all-purposed flour
2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup bread crumbs or cracker meal
1 large egg
Vegetable oil for frying

Put yuca in medium saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until a knife is easily inserted into the flesh.

While the yuca is cooking, heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, peppers, garlic and ham and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in ¾ cup flour. Place in a food processor and process until the mixture forms a paste. Scrape into a bowl. Reserve.

Place the yuca in the food processor and process until smooth. With moistened hands work the yuca puree, salt and pepper into the vegetable mixture. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Form the yuca mixture into 20 rounds, using a heaping tablespoon for each. Place the remaining ½ cup flour and the cracker meal in separate bowls Lightly beat the egg in another bowl. One at a time roll each croquette first in flour, then egg, then cracker meal.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Pour enough oil to come to a depth of an inch or so into a medium pot. Heat the oil. Carefully drop croquettes a few at a time into the oil and fry until golden brown, turning as necessary. Repeat with remaining croquettes. Serve hot. These may be made ahead and reheated on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 3 minutes. Makes 20.

Recipe adapted from Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka.available at ::Amazon