Mary Anne here. I first sampled Yuca – aka Cassava – while visiting St. Lucia this past December. Michael and I took a tour of the Pitons, visiting the magnificent and explosive botanical gardens…explosive thanks to the neighboring active volcano. Never have I seen flora and fauna as lush and vibrant as the native flowers found on this tiny Caribbean island, an island that yields much of the of the mahogany that’s crafted into fine furnishings.
After a long morning of trekking through the tropical forests and inhaling the sulfured air of the boiling, roiling volcano, we were treated to a buffet luncheon held in a local restaurant that was pitched precariously on the edge of the mountain. While the view was breathtaking, what captured my fancy was a large tray of what appeared to be a simple chicken salad tossed with peas, corn, and mayonnaise. As my fork pierced the first piece, I knew this was no side of poultry. The flesh was firm yet tender, and as I tasted this mystery dish, I was surprised and delighted by the creamy texture and its subtle sweetness. When I brazenly dove in for a heaping second portion, I asked the server what made this so instantly addictive. With a shrug and a toss of her long, beaded braids, she enlightened me: Yuca is just another everyday culinary option!
I’ve been looking for this brown-skinned tuber ever since and was ecstatic when it appeared in the produce section of my local Stop and Shop last week. I did a bit of research and learned that Yuca was first cultivated in Brazil, but now is the largest crop in Nigeria as well as other African countries. It cannot be eaten raw, since it contains trace amounts of cyanide that require cooking away, but you can treat it like an ordinary Idaho ‘tater: peel it, cut it into chunks; store the uncooked Yuca in a bowl of water overnight in the fridge if making it in steps. I created my salad using the usual cast of characters conjuring up a Caribbean-style version of the good old American Potato Salad, but you can dress it with whatever catches your fancy.
2 ½ lbs. Yuca – $1.58
1 Teaspoon white wine vinegar – stock
1 cup celery, diced – $2.09
1 cup Vidalia onion, diced – $0.95
3 hard-boiled eggs, diced – stock
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped – $0.99
8 strips turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled – $1.99
½ cup light mayonnaise – stock
½ cup light sour cream – $1.45
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $9.05
Total Per Serving: $0.90
1. Trim the ends of the yucca. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, peel off the waxy brown skin. Rinse off the paring knife or peeler, and lightly peel the flesh of the yucca, removing the red streaks. The flesh should be white with perhaps a slight yellow cast.
2. Cut the yucca in half lengthwise, and remove the fibrous vein running through the center. Dice the yucca into ½ – inch chunks.
3. Place the yucca cubes in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Add the vinegar and some salt. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes until the yucca is fork tender.
4. Drain in a colander and allow to cool for about 10 or 15 minutes.
5. Transfer the yucca to a large serving bowl. Add the celery, onion, eggs, cilantro and crumbled bacon.
6. Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Fold into the yucca salad. Correct seasonings and serve either chilled or at room temperature.