Yuca Frita Croquetas

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Yuca frita is the crisper, starchier, and creamier brother of the papita frita, and is undoubtedly a Cuban staple either fried crisp or soft and sautéed with garlic and onion. Yuca is one of my favorite Cuban side dishes whether prepared as yuca hervida or yuca frita and now as yuca frita croquetas.

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I first had yuca frita croquetas while I was interning for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival Rockin’ Beach Party made by Versailles– you can order them at their restaurant on Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana, and they are amazing. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly a traditional Cuban dish, but it is freaking delicious and is made up of 100% Cuban elements. I couldn’t decide what to call these delicious wonders of the world…yuca frita rellena? Picadillo stuffed yuca frita croquetas? As you can tell I dig yuca, it is easy to make, tastes delicious, and its naturally gluten free.

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Picadillo stuffed yuca croquetas are wonderous for two reasons: they are ideal for leftover picadillo and they are the perfect receptacle for cilantro garlic sauce (<3 Pollo Tropical you’ll always be my #1). The salted crisp yuca with the creamy citrusy cilantro garlic sauce is a match made in heaven that will have you reaching for more. I am pretty passionate about croquetas and these are a great party alternative to add to your repertoire (especially since they are pretty easy to make and use leftovers to boot)!

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Yuca Frita Croquetas

Yuca frita croquetas are ideal with leftover picadillo, but you can make a fresh batch just for this and enjoy your picadillo before or after. I highly recommend using leftover since it is chilled and is easier to use as a stuffing.  Completely cover the yuca in salted water and bring the water to a boil (I did defrost mine over night, but the bag doesn’t say this is required). Cook the yuca on medium heat for 25-30 minutes until fork tender.

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Once the yuca has coolded down enough to handle, remove the fibrous center of the yuca root. Next mash the yuca with a potato masher or potato ricer. It is best to do this while it is still warm. Don’t let it cool completely. Form the mashed yuca into similar shaped balls. Now work the soft yuca into a patty the shape of your palm. Wet your hands with water constantly to avoid the starchy yuca from sticking too much to your hands while forming the yuca frita croquetas. Add a tablespoon or so of Cuban picadillo to the center of the mashed yuca patty. Close the yuca onto itself and do the best you can to eliminate a seal using water.

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Heat vegetable oil on the stove top. Fry the yuca frita croquetas till golden brown.* Drain on paper towels and garnish with sea salt right away. Before enjoying add a squeeze of lime. Yuca frita croquetas go best with pollo tropical inspirecilantro garlic sauce and a cold beer.

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*Make sure to rotate the croquetas slowly instead of flipping roll them till they are brown all around. Sometimes the filling of croquetas can ooze out of the sides if the top and bottom are crispier than the sides.

 

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Strawberry Balsamic Sangria

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Strawberry balsamic sangria is the answer to your sweltering summer sorrows. Summer is here in New York City, and it brought sangria weather with it this year. This is my second summer in NYC and it is even more scorching and sweat-inducing unlike the last. For some reason it seems hotter in Manhattan than it does in my hometown of Miami. Maybe it is the towering totems to big business, the hustle and bustle of the hoi polloi, or the stagnant air ripe with piles of rotting garbage that wafts on street corners and makes you yearn for the fresh air of the country side. You take your pick- New York is just hot and stinky in the summer.

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Fear not though- with summer heat comes nature’s sweets. Some of the best fruit grows in the summer season. I am lucky to live close to the Union Square Farmer’s Market where all of the best local fruit is available direct from the farm. Straight-from-the-farm strawberries are unlike those in the super market. They are brighter, softer, sweeter, fresher, and their seeds are somehow sparse and less noticeable. Strawberries are one of my summer favorites and they are perfect for sangria- summer’s signature cocktail.

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Sangria is the best summer drink for several reasons:

  1. Sangria can be made in advance for summer parties and barbecue
  2. Summer is berry season…I’m talking blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and black berries galore( oh and did I mentioned peaches, apricots, cherries, melons, plums, figs, and GUAVA!?!?)
  3. It is oh-so cold, sweet, versatile, ,refreshing and EASY

I could keep going on about the merits of sangria, but I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy the summer heat with some sangria in hand and your feet in the sand because remember…winter is coming.

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Strawberry Balsamic Sangria

  • 3 cups sliced ripe strawberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 bottle Pinot Grigio, Soave, Riesling, or Gewurztraminer
  • ¼ cup port or brandy
  • ¼ cup aged Balsamic vinegar (sweeter than regular balsamic)
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Mint or basil to garnish
  • 1 bottle sparkling rose or prosecco (I chose dry)
  • ½ cup orange soda (optional)

Wash the strawberries well, remove stems, and slice. Let the strawberries macerate with sugar and aged balsamic vinegar for an hour. This brings out all the natural strawberry juice and sweetens more naturally. Pour in the bottle of wine and port (or brandy). Allow all of the ingredients to combine together in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

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 When ready to serve the strawberry balsamic sangria fill the rest of the pitcher up with sparkling rose or prosecco and stir. I added ½ a cup of orange soda and it really tasted great making me think grand marnier would be a great substitution for port or brandy.  Another option is to prep individual glasses on trays to pass out to guests and then top off with the prosecco or sparkling rose right before serving for parties and entertaining. You can prep this the morning of any gathering or party, and I think you could technically do this a day in advance but I don’t like when the fruit is too soft.

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Garnish the strawberry balsamic sangria with a lime wheel, strawberry, fresh mint, or basil- whatever you have on hand and enjoy!

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Mom’s Baked Brie with Guava

Baked Brie with Guava from StellarAsh.com

If you open my mom’s fridge you will usually find puff pastry, a wheel of brie, and guava marmalade ready to go at a moment’s notice- I’m also betting that if you open the pantry you will find a box of Carr’s water crackers too. This is my mom’s recipe for baked brie with guava- a foolproof solution for unannounced guests, impromptu gatherings, and any occasion- special or otherwise. Baked brie with guava will always impress your guests, is crazy easy to make, requires basically no dishes (which I loathe), and makes you feel like you have it together (somewhat at least) when you find yourself entertaining guests either planned or spontaneously.

Baked Brie with Guavamake-the-simple-syrup-to-brush-on-the-baked-guava-brieBaked Brie with Guava from StellarAsh.comBaked brie with guava from StellarAsh.com

Obviously in order for me to help you look cool you have to have the basic elements on hand pretty regularly- puff pastry and brie. Help me help you! You can exchange the guava for any marmalade of your liking- strawberry, apricot, peachjalapeno pepper, red onion jam– the list goes on. As you know I have a serious love for all things guava so this is always my numero uno selection for baked brie, but go ahead and choose anything you prefer. I brushed my baked brie with guava with a rosemary simple syrup right when it came out of the oven. The rosemary simple syrup gave the baked brie with guava a nice earthy and herbal small that went well aromatically with the sweet guava and rich brie.

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Feast on with family and friends, breathe a little when your guests arrive (or show up), and know that this easy and classic recipe for baked brie with guava will always make you look good and will always taste good too! Bon appetit!

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Baked Brie with Guava 

  • Medium to large brie wheel (defrost overnight in the fridge before use)
  • 2 tablespoons guava marmalade (conchita brand is my favorite)
  • Sheet of frozen puff pastry (or homemade if you’re awesome)
  • One egg
  • 1 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • One sprig fresh rosemary

Serve with:

  • Water crackers
  • Toasts
  • Bread
  • Toasted almonds or walnuts
  • Apples
  • Pears

Preheat the oven to 350F. Use either frozen puff pastry or the pull-apart crescents that come in the pop can (which my mom uses and presses the perforations together). Place the brie in the center of the puff pastry and brush with your marmalade of choice. Do NOT trim the white casing off on the brie. This is totally edible and keeps the brie from melting all over the place. Fold over the edges of the puff pastry to completely cover and seal the brie and guava. If you leave bits peeking through it will melt through or the marmalade can kind of burn. Brush with egg wash before placing in the oven. Bake the brie and guava for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

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While my baked brie with guava was in the oven I made a quick rosemary simple syrup to brush on top. Place the 1/4 cup water and sugar in the microwave with the sprig of fresh rosemary and heat at 30 second intervals stirring after each interval until clear. Brush right when the baked brie with guava comes out of the oven. Let the brie settle for 5-10 minutes before cutting in. You can always par bake the brie if you are taking it to a get together or dinner party. The brie will solidify once it cools down. If you are taking this baked brie with guava to a dinner party just pop it in the oven again at your destination for 10-15 minutes on the warm setting and the brie will become melted inside again.

baked brie with guava from StellarAsh.comBaked Brie with Guava from StellarAsh.com

Serve with freshly sliced fruit, toasted almonds, melba toasts, water crackers, or other simple crackers of your choosing. This recipe is great year-round and will always be a delight.

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