The Magical Pesach Ingredient
BY: Sara Liberow
Cooking with @THYMELYEATS
Yuca is a vegetable I grew up on that shines particularly brightly on Pesach. It’s really the magical ingredient everyone should know about. It has so many applications for Pesach that even the most stringent users can get excited about it. You may have heard of yuca fries, but have you heard of yuca dough? Yuca bread? Yuca starch?
You can find yuca (also called cassava) at most major grocery stores or Latin supermarkets and bodegas. In my hometown of Colombia, the produce guy at the grocery store is always ready with a machete to cut open the yuca. In the States, to get the best yuca, be sure to select a firm and dense yuca root. A yuca root has gone bad if you cut it open and there are black specks or lines on the flesh.
Basic Yuca Dough
Because of its very high starch content, yuca can be boiled and turned into an easy-to-work-with stretchy dough. Yes! An actual, doughy dough that doesn’t crumble! We’re not going to pretend it tastes like a regular flour dough, but it’s delicious nonetheless and has a great texture.
2 – 4 tbs. oil
Peel the yuca with a vegetable peeler to remove the tough brown skin and the wax coating. Cut the yuca into 3-inch chunks and place them in the pot, covering them with water. Add a generous pinch of salt to the pot (think of them as potatoes – they love a good salting!) and boil them until they are fork-tender, about 25 minutes.
Drain the yuca and place the pieces in a large bowl. Split each piece in half vertically, removing the thick fibrous stem inside. Mash the yuca with a potato masher, or pulse in a food processor, being careful not to overmix, as the dough will become very sticky, until you have a soft, pliable dough.
Carimañolas with Meat
You can stuff the yuca dough with just about anything your heart desires: cheese, shredded chicken, veggies, or meat. Here I’ll show you the meat version. You can also just keep them simple and shape them into balls, not stuffing them at all, for a pillowy and delicious treat. We call these yuca bombs in my house because they almost explode when you fry them.
Basic Yuca Dough
Oil for frying
For the Filling:
1 Tbsp. oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. paprika
½ tsp. cumin
½ cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Season the meat with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium heat. Increase heat to medium-high and cook the ground meat (in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan), undisturbed in the pan, until it’s well browned underneath. Break up the meat using a spoon or spatula, until nearly cooked through, but with some pink remaining. Transfer the meat to a plate with a slotted spoon.
In the fat that’s left behind by the meat, sauté the onions until soft, then add garlic, jalapeno, and the rest of the spices. Once they are sautéed nicely, add the meat back in, combine, and cook for a few more minutes.
Take the yuca dough and make a fist-sized ball. Pat it down into a flat disk, no need for it to be perfectly symmetrical.
Add one tablespoon of meat stuffing and close gently, giving it an oval shape. Add the carimañolas to a skillet with hot oil and sauté for about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown, taking care not to overcrowd the pan.
Take out each carimañola and drain on wrapping paper towels. Serve immediately.
Pan De Yuca
We call my 2-year-old’s cheeks “pan de yucas” – that’s the exact texture of these little cheesy buns. I love keeping these pillowy balls of goodness in my freezer for an easy breakfast all year round. Just pop ’em in the toaster when you’re in the mood!
1 container of ricotta, drained
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. garlic
1 tbsp. fresh thyme or oregano
1.5 cups tapioca starch (or more, depending on how wet it is)
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Add more tapioca starch if needed to make the dough workable.
Shape the dough into golf-sized balls, and lay them out on a baking sheet, leaving some space between them. Freeze the balls for about an hour so they hold their shape.
Bake at 375 for approximately 18 minutes or until lightly browned.
Yucarepas de Queso
Traditionally, arepas are made from corn flour and are eaten for breakfast almost religiously in Colombia. Since our family does not use kitnios on Pesach, we love these yuca-based alternatives.
Basic yuca dough
Shredded cheese, to taste
2 tbs. softened butter
Oil for pan frying
Chopped spinach, optional
Garlic and onion powder, optional
Make the basic yuca dough and mix in the softened butter and as much shredded cheese as you’d like. You can also flavor your dough with some garlic and onion powder and add in some chopped spinach for nutrients and color.
Form fist sized balls with the dough. Take the lid of a large jar (I like to use a large mason jar ring, and 2 large mason jar disk inserts for the perfect thickness and diameter) and put it in a zip-top bag to make it easier to pop the arepas out.
Using the lid as a mold, place each ball over the lid and use a rolling pin to roll the arepa ball flat over the shape of the lid. Pop out the arepas.
Heat the oil over medium high and pan fry the arepas on each side until golden brown.
More ways to love Yuca!