Thursday, January 13, 2022

Fried Yuca Balls

Recipe for panko coated and fried balls of cassava root (yuca) mashed and stuffed with cheese.

One beautiful April day, we drove upstate to meet our puppy and then had lunch at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Our meal was insanely good, filled with memorable dishes of the tenderest short ribs and fried yucca balls. It was my first time tasting yuca (cassava root) and it was love at first bite.

Recipe for panko coated and fried balls of cassava root (yuca) mashed and stuffed with cheese.

As I normally do after tasting an amazing restaurant dish, I resolved to recreate it at home. I already knew how to braise short ribs but those yuca balls were definitely going to get made. For sure. Well...this coming April, the "puppy" will be 13 years old and I hadn't gotten to those yuca balls.

Recipe for panko coated and fried balls of cassava root (yuca) mashed and stuffed with cheese.

It's embarrassing, really. I mean, it's not like I don't cook and create recipes almost every day of my life. And I can find yuca locally pretty easily. I have no excuse. So why now? The truth is that I was showing a new friend the photos I took of that memorable CIA visit and those little fried balls of deliciousness were staring me in the face, reminding me of my failure. I immediately put yuca in my online shopping cart.

You know what else is embarrassing? Once I really dissected the recipe parts, it was quite easy to do. I've done potato variations of this countless times. Sigh. Well, here they are in all their fried glory. Yuca is starchier than potatoes and, although they are also a root vegetable, the flavor is different.

Recipe for panko coated and fried balls of cassava root (yuca) mashed and stuffed with cheese.

A few points about yuca (pronounced YOO-KA). It's the edible root of the cassava plant and native to South America. The brown, bark-like skin must be peeled but the starchy white flesh inside can be used the same way as potatoes. Yucca (with two C's) is a different plant although people often confuse the spelling.

I honestly don't remember if the CIA put cheese in theirs but lots of online recipes do include it. I tried it both ways and I actually prefer it without because it lets the flavor of the yuca shine instead of the cheese. But both options are amazing. I had some leftover brisket so I paired it with that instead of the short ribs. It's really good so let's hope I don't take another 13 years to make this dish again. Enjoy!