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Before I fell in love with a Puerto Rican girl, I had little idea of what the food from that island was like. Soon after Rosi and I started going out, she told me how much she loved eating yuca. The idea seemed strange to me. I assumed she was using the Spanish word for yucca, the state flower of New Mexico, where I grew up. It’s a plant with sharp, sword-like leaves and a tall stalk topped with white flowers, and the last thing that would have ever occurred to me was to try to eat it. Well, as it turns out, yuca and yucca are two completely unrelated plants: what’s called yuca in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean is known elsewhere as cassava or manioc. It’s a starchy root vegetable that can be boiled or fried, and it is in fact delicious. One Thanksgiving it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to mash boiled yuca along with the potatoes, and the result was so good that it immediately became a Thanksgiving tradition in our house. Like so many things in our lives, it’s a mix of “All-American”and Latino traditions. So here’s my contribution to the growing body of Hispanic Thanksgiving recipes. If you decide to try it, let us know how you liked it. Enjoy!
Mashed Potatoes with Yuca and Roasted Garlic
Serves 12 (with leftovers)
– 2 lbs. Russet potatoes
– 2 lbs. yuca root
– 1 head garlic
– milk or soy milk
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1/2 stick butter (optional)
Peel potatoes, or don’t, as you prefer. I’ve done it either way. To prepare yuca, cut it crosswise into sections about 2 inches long. Soak it in very hot, but not boiling, water for about 10 minutes. This will soften the tough outer skin. When it’s cool enough to handle, take a chunk of yuca and make a shallow incision across the skin. Carefully wedge your knife blade between the skin and the flesh and pry the skin off all around. Peel all the yuca in this manner and cut each of the yuca chunks in half lengthwise. There’s a tough fiber in the center that needs to be removed. I usually do this with a paring knife, making two incisions in a V-shape around the fiber and prying it out.
While yuca is soaking, roast garlic by whatever method you prefer. I like to separate the cloves, cut off the butt end, and wrap them in aluminum foil with a drizzle of olive oil, then roast at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until it smells delicious. Garlic should be soft and lightly browned when you remove it from the skins.
Boil the yuca for about 8 minutes before adding the potatoes, as it takes a bit longer to soften. When yuca and potatoes are done cooking. Mash them together with the garlic, butter (if desired) and enough liquid to get the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.