Experiment: Spicy Roasted Cassava (Yuca Root)
In my ‘Foodstuffs’ post featuring Cassava, I noted that, not only is the vegetable widely used in Latin America (where it originates), it is also very popular in Indonesia. I looked at quite a few recipes when I was trying to decide how to prepare the root I purchased and I finally decided to do a dish that incorporated the cooking methods and seasonings of both regions.
In Indonesia, the vegetable is often boiled with spices and then deep-fried afterwards. I, however, thought it might be nice to boil it first and then roast it, South American fashion, using spices from the Indonesian flavor palette…
- 1 small Cassava (about 1 lb. or so)
- 2 tbsp. ground Turmeric
- 2 Cloves
- 2 Green Cardamom Seeds
- 1 tbsp. Coriander Seed
- Lemon Juice (about 3 tbsp. in all)
- 1 ¼ tbsp. Salt
- Ground Black Pepper
- 4 tbsp. Cooking Oil
- 1 tsp. Crushed Red Chili
- 1 tsp. Cumin Seed
- 1 tsp. Dried Parsley
Peel the Cassava. Cut it into sections then cut each section lengthwise into four pieces. There is a hard, woody core in the center of the Cassava so slice this away from each piece and then cut them all into irregular bite size pieces.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and add the Coriander seeds, cloves and Cardamom. Stir for a few minutes until they start to brown slightly then add the Turmeric, blending it with the oil.
Add 4 cups or so of water to the saucepan along with a tablespoon of the salt and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. When it all starts to boil, add the Cassava pieces and cook for about 10 minutes or so until they are just starting to become tender. Drain away the liquid and after, the pieces have cooled, discard the Cardamom, Cloves and as many of the Coriander seeds as possible.
Crush the Cumin seeds in a mortar (without pulverizing them completely) and put them in a deep bowl long with the Chili and parsley, the remaining oil, a tablespoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the Cassava pieces in this and then spread them out in a roasting pan large enough so that they are not too tightly pressed together.
The Final Cooking
First, pre-heat our oven to 450 degrees…
I decided to cook the Cassava long with an Indonesian style roasted Chicken that I rubbed with salt, sugar, garlic and ginger paste, and then marinated for several hours with soy sauce. The collateral benefit of this is that I would be able to cook the chicken and the Cassava at much the same time. The Chicken takes a good 50 or 60 minutes to cook at this temperature so the Cassava, which only needs 20 or 30 minutes, can be put into the oven after 40 minutes or so. Obviously, if you are cooking it alone, you can put into cook as soon as the oven is hot enough…
During cooking, keep an eye on things and turn the Cassava pieces from time to time so that they brown nicely and crisp up here and there. If you also cook this with chicken, then take the chicken pieces out of the oven a few minutes before the Cassava and let it rest for a moment while the Cassava finishes. Finally, plate everything and then serve.
I served the Chicken and Cassava with a dipping sauce made with a garlic mayonnaise spiced up with chili paste. The Chicken was cooked with a pretty common recipe around here so there were no particular surprises with that dish, but the Cassava got mixed results …
I enjoyed the Cassava but, to be quite honest, my feeling was that it could just as easily have been potato for all the difference in taste. My wife, however, said she absolutely hated it and ended up eating no more than a few pieces. This surprised me, I have to say, as I know she likes all the spices I used and there was nothing unusual about this particular combination. Possibly, there was some interaction with the Cassava and one or more of the spices that produced an effect she didn’t like. Anyway, I have a greater appreciation for the versatility of this root after attempting my experiment and I would like to try a few other methods of preparation sometime…