I’m sitting in a small Latin restaurant in Hudson Valley, New York. At least that is how I feel as I read the menu at Our Harvest while grabbing a beer.
It never ceases to amaze me how food can transport us back in time as it launches our memories that are triggered by certain dishes.
It was 10 years ago when I had my first yuca frita, but as I look at this simple small plate of grilled skirt steak and mashed avocado, I immediately reminisce on a challenging part of my career. It was early 2008, and I was at the Culinary Institute of America for the final round of testing for ProChef Certification. One of the competencies was Latin American Cuisine, and I decided to head out the night before the exam and find a Latin restaurant to pick up a few ideas; to get in the right mindset.
Not able to remember the name of the place, I dug around online and found nothing, so perhaps the place has closed since that memorable evening. All I know is that, while what I had tonight did not have the yuca frita, everything else was a most-refreshing reminder.
I’m reliving the skirt steak, grilled over a roaring fire and served in its juices with a soft, warm-mashed avocado, all drizzled with Chimichurri. But the best part of the dish is what it brings to me, again in the form of those amazing yuca frita, or yuca fries.
Yuca is a root vegetable that is readily available, and one that I recommend you play around with. Having little flavor of its own, it absorbs whatever it is cooked in. To make a yuca fry, you start by peeling the yuca, halving it lengthwise, and then cutting out the tiny core that runs down the middle of the vegetable.
The trick is to blanch the yuca in liberally salted water until it is tender but not falling apart. Draining them on paper towels will help them to steam-out a little, adding to the fluffiness of the interior of the fry in the finished product.
When you’re ready to go, simply fry the yuca until golden brown and sprinkle some Brazilian love on top. For this, I make a mixture of salt, pepper, sugar and a dash of cinnamon.
I hope that this dish takes you back to a time when you may have had something for the first time, whether it be chimichurri, skirt steak, yuca or Latin food in general. I love how food has the power to do that, and I can’t wait to see what happens to me next week.
Grilled Skirt, Mashed
Avocado with yuca frita, Chimichurri
1 pound Skirt steak, trimmed of fat and sinew
2 cups Serious Mojo Marinade (recipe follows)
3 Soft avocadoes
Yuca Frita (recipe follows)
Salt & Pepper, as needed
Sugar & Cinnamon, as needed
1/2 cup Chimichurri
1. Time this with your fried yuca so that it all comes out about the same time
2. Marinate the skirt steak in the marinade overnight if possible
3. When ready to grill, remove the skirt from the marinade and make sure most of it is off the steak
4. Grill very quickly on a high heat to a good medium rare and pull off to rest while you finish the dish
5. When the yuca is in the final stage of frying (reference recipe below), deep fry at 375F until it is golden brown and fluffy inside
6. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with a combination of salt, pepper, sugar and cinnamon (you will have to play with the ratio to get it where you want it)
7. Carefully halve the avocadoes at the last minute – to prevent any browning – and mash lightly in the middle of each plate
8. Top with the steak
9. Serve with your chimichurri sauce, any steak drippings that you may have collected, the yuca frita and a garnish of your choice
Serious Mojo Marinade
makes about 3 cups
1 cup Olive oil, any grade
1/2 cup Sherry vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 bunch Cilantro
1/2 bunch basil
1/2 White onion, not sweet
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 ea. Jalapeno, seeded
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1. Combine all ingredients, except the last two, in a powerful blender
2. Puree and then add the salt and pepper to taste
3. Keep refrigerated until ready to use
Enough for six dinners
2 Yuca roots
2 Tbsp. Kosher salt, for the water
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
2 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Ground black pepper
1 tsp. Sugar
1. Peel the yuca roots and cut in half lengthwise
2. In the center of the yuca will be a core, so take a paring knife and carefully remove
3. Cut the yuca into four-inch chunks and from there cut into something resembling French fries
4. Bring a pot of water to a boil with the first 2 tbsp. of salt
5. Add the yuca and cook until tender, but not falling apart
6. Remove to paper towels and allow to cool
7. Proceed according to the main recipe
8. Sprinkle your yuca frita with the spice blend and you will have a wonderful addition to your Latin steak