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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Cilantro Garlic Sauce

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Pollo Tropical got me addicted to cilantro garlic sauce. This place is a Hispanic fast food mecca in South Florida- easy take-out like the home cooking your abuela made. Chicken, pork, maduros, tostones, white rice, sopa de pollo, yuca frita (and have we mentioned the cilantro garlic sauce!?!) are all authentic and Cuban. My mom is a power business woman so when I was growing up she would often get us Pollo Tropical on the way home from guitar lessons, swim practice, or soccer games. I grew up eating this stuff and crave it; my love for Pollo Tropical is close to my passion for Publix Subs.

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I made cilantro garlic sauce and yuca frita for a post I did over a year ago. This single post has been by far my post popular post and drives the most traffic to this site. The fanaticism behind Pollo Tropical’s cilantro garlic sauce is no joke people. So I decided to test out the very best variations to make sure my recipe was just right. Based on my research, I have to modify my previous recipe. I tested the sauce with mayonnaise, yogurt, and sour cream, and I also did variations with two, three, and four garlic cloves to test the impact on flavor. As I tried out different recipes I also realized the freshness of the garlic impacted the flavor. Older garlic can tend to have a sharper and spicier flavor than fresh cloves- I prefer the fresh and lighter taste.

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After trying to make the cilantro garlic sauce with mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and sour cream I decided I like sour cream the best, but hey you do you and make it according to your palate. Greek yogurt is the thickest of the three and the mayonnaise has that distinct underlying egg flavor. Cilantro garlic sauce is a great condiment for tostones, chips, tacos, yuca frita, burritos, and even crudites.

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 Cilantro Garlic Sauce

  • 12 oz sour cream (or Greek yogurt or mayonnaise in any combination)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 1 tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Remove the stems from the cilantro and wash it well in cold water. Cilantro can have gritty sand on the leaves so make sure to rinse well. Dry the cilantro using a salad spinner or I usually roll it up in several paper towel sheets and place it in the refrigerator while I prep everything else. Muddle the garlic and olive oil together with a mortar and pestle. Although you will be using a food processor, I think this step really infuses the garlic and oil together helping to smooth the taste of the garlic in the sauce.

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Mix the lime, salt, and cayenne into the garlic oil and then pour into the food processor with the chopped cilantro and sour cream. Pulse the cilantro garlic sauce until it is smooth and creamy. Taste the sauce to determine if it needs more citrus or salt. I have found that it can become very salty very quickly so err on the side of caution. Serve the cilantro garlic sauce with yuca frita, French fries, tostones, fajitas, chips, mariquitas, or with tacos, on bowls… at this point the possibilities are endless.

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Mojo Beef Short Ribs

Fontignac Mojo-Beef-Short-Ribs  

Mojo beef short ribs with yuca frita and cilantro garlic sauce are utter perfection.  The mojo, tender short ribs, crispy yuca frita, and garlicky sauce all combine to create wondrous Cuban amazingness in your mouth. I have a love for fall off-the-bone beef short ribs, and I wanted to make this into a Cuban dish. The Fontignac cast-iron enameled French cooking oven I ordered finally arrived, and braised beef short ribs were the first thing on my list to make.

          Mire-poix

I made classic beef short ribs first with a red wine sauce last week as practice, and it left something to be desired. So I decided to give it another go, and this time my recipe was a homerun! Seriously- these mojo braised beef short ribs will change your world. Your taste buds will rejoice and your friends and family will let out a gasp as you place this dish before them.

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The mojo flavors subdued the intense richness of the beef short ribs and cut through the fat. The crispy yuca frita added texture, and the creamy cilantro garlic sauce supplied the necessary tang to marry the flavors together. If I ever had my own restaurant this recipe would undoubtedly be on the menu. I loved the plating and the true Cuban flavors in the perfect mojo sauce. Mojo braised beef short ribs are taking Cuban flavors to another level.

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Mojo Beef Short Ribs 

Salt and Pepper Flour 8 Beef Short Ribs 2 tablespoons Olive Oil 1 onion diced 1 medium carrot diced 1 large (or 2 small) celery stalks diced 5 garlic cloves ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice ¾ prepared Mojo Criollo ½ cup- ¾ dry white cooking wine 1 bay leaf ½ teaspoon ground oregano ½ teaspoon cumin 1 cup beef broth ( or more to cover) Serves 4 hearty portion

Dice the onion, carrot, and celery. This is called a mirepoix; set aside for later. Juice 2 limes (or enough for a ¼ cup) and 1 orange; set aside.

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Add a tablespoon of the olive oil to a dutch oven and turn the stove top to medium-high heat (I used Fontignac cast-iron enameled French cooking oven). Pat the beef short ribs dry and season all sides generously with freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt. Dredge the beef short ribs in flour.

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When the olive oil is very hot place 3-4 beef ribs, meaty side down (bones facing up) in the bottom of the pan. Do not crowd the beef ribs. They will steam instead of searing and browning nicely if they are crowded in the pan. Sear the ribs on all sides, including the cut ends. Each side should get about a minute (or more if you want a nice hard sear on the outside). This gives the beef short ribs great color and locks in the yummy juices and keeps them tender. Add the rest of the olive oil if needed in this step. It took me three batches of browning and searing to finish all the beef short ribs. Set them aside on a plate when you are done.

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Preheat the oven to 350F. Now add the mirepoix to the same pot making sure to scrape up any tasty brown bits. Allow the vegetables to soften and cook. Add the garlic when they are almost done cooking.  Next pour in the white cooking wine, fresh squeezed orange, lime juice, and mojo. Stir in the cumin, oregano, and add a bay leaf to the liquid. Bring to a boil. Add the beef ribs back into the pot with the meaty side down once again. Pour in enough beef broth to just cover the beef short ribs. Bring to boil again, and then put the lid on top and place in the oven and braise at 350F for 2 ½ hours. Check out the before and after below… the beef ribs were falling off the bone!!

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With about 50 minutes left in the cooking begin to prep the yuca and cilantro garlic sauce. The crispier the yuca the better! Squeeze a lime wedge over the yuca frita and sprinkle with sea salt. I plated both dishes with five yuca frita.  Make the cilantro garlic sauce per the instructions in my recipe. Place the yuca row and drizzle with the cilantro garlic sauce.

          Fork-Tender-Ribs

The tender beef short ribs were literally falling off the bones when I took them out of the oven. You can strain and cook the braising liquid to make gravy, or just ladle some mojo into a bowl for dipping. Top with two beef ribs, and drizzle the thickened mojo sauce on top of the beef short ribs. Sprinkle with torn cilantro leaves or parsley. Mojo braised beef short ribs are perhaps one of my best creations and crazy impressive looking when plated!

 

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