Yucca fries is one of those things that I remember exactly (all Proust-like) how I had it for the first time. It was my first winter in NYC and I was a poor starving waitress / fashion intern–meaning I was at everyone’s beck and call and working day and night. The only time I felt like a normal person was when my boyfriend would take me out to a nice restaurant or a bar. One cold night around 1 a.m., after my night shift, he took me to a Latin restaurant on Houston St called Macondo where we had some tasty cocktails (involved bananas, don’t ask) and a plate of delicate yucca fries. I don’t know if it was the feeling of finally being on the customer side of things or the banana cocktails or simply the taste of golden crispy yucca fries after working so hard, but I was hooked.
If you’ve never had yucca fries, you have to try them. Though starchy and white, they have a unique taste that’s just better than potato fries. Yucca is not going to win any prizes for looks, but it’s definitely worth making–just be careful when you’re peeling and cutting it because it’s really hard. The key is to cut it in 4″ lengths so it’s easier to handle, then use a veggie peeler to get rid of the waxy brown layer and the pink layer, revealing the white flesh underneath. Get rid of stringy tough fiber, if you find any near the center. Now you’re ready to work!
Yucca Fries with Chimichurri Dip
1 large yucca (about 12″ length), washed, peeled, and cut into 3-4″ sticks
Extra virgin olive oil
about 5 tbsp breadcrumbs
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
coarse sea salt
ground black pepper
pinch dried oregano (optional)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
handful cilantro, stems discarded and roughly chopped
handful flat leaf parsley, stems discarded and roughly chopped
1 garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil water in a medium pot. Add yucca sticks and boil for 6-7 minutes until translucent but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oven to 400 degrees F, and put a baking tray lined with foil in the oven to get warmed up. When the oven is ready, take out the baking tray and brush about 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil with a rubber spatula.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, oregano (if using), salt and pepper with a fork. Add about 1/2 of the yucca into the bowl and toss lightly. Place these in the hot baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the yucca pieces. Drizzle/sprinkle on top with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.
4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden and crispy, turning once in the middle. Meanwhile, blend the dip ingredients in a blender or food processor. It will be easier if you give your ingredients a good chop before putting in the blender. You may also add water while the blade is running at low speed, for the best blending results.
5. Take the fries out of the oven and enjoy with chimichurri sauce. Serve immediately.
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling