A few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon there was an emergency on our block. We had fire trucks and police cars, ambulances and EMT's. The whole neighborhood came out to see what was going on.
A couple of ladies from the block introduced themselves as they stared oddly at me. Where are you from one asked? Miami I answered. But you have an accent and you look Hispanic. Although politically incorrect, they seemed harmless. I was born in Cuba, I replied, but considering I learned to speak in Miami, my accent is from Miami. (I think people here have an accent). They seemed very excited to have met a Cuban. Yes ladeies, there is a Cuban on your block.
This is all very strange to me. Having only lived in Miami and Los Angeles, it is difficult for me to not blend in. There are so many Hispanics in Miami, and when I lived in Hollywood there were 108 languages spoken in my high school – we were all foreign.
I guess one's comfortable with what one is exposed to. This leads me to food of course. I found a yucca root at the local supermarket the other day which I promptly put in my cart. The checkout lady inspected it and asked what do you do with this? I replied: Well, it's sort of like a potato but starchier and thicker in consistency, you can boil it, fry it, use it in soups and stews. The girl loading my bags made a face. Have you eaten it before? I asked her. Yes, I didn't care for it.
When my cousins were here a few weeks ago they asked me if I had ever made yuca rellena. Like a papa rellena they explained, it's yummy. After my misadventure with alcapurrias last week, I was a bit hesitant to try something new...again, but I am quite familiar with yucca so, what the heck. I didn't want to make it like a papa rellena, meaning I wanted to simplify things and not have to make a meat filling. I came across a recipe for yuquitas rellenas con queso.
This was a good idea but it required frying twice, and I'm avoiding the calories. I researched further and found this recipe from Emeril for carimanolas which is a meat stuffed fried yucca.
I decided to take ideas from both
2 lbs yucca root
4 ounces cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (use whatever cheese you prefer)
vegetable oil for frying
I used the following seasoning, but it is totally optional, you can season with salt and pepper or any other spices you prefer.
Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning)
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon onion powder
(I didn't have the thyme or the onion powder)
Mix these ingredient together. I put it all in a bottle and shook.
Place yucca in a large pot with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, but not falling apart. (about 45 minutes). Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash with a drizzle of olive oil. Mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the creole seasoning. (You can use your hands)
Take about a tablespoonful of the yuca mixture into your hands and roll into into a small ball. Using a finger (I used a measuring teaspoon), press a deep hole into the center of each. Insert your cheese into the center of each ball and gently work the yucca dough around it to completely enclose. (I made a couple with shredded mozzarella, but it was too messy. Non-shredded cheese is best)
Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil. Add the balls in batches and cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve hot or at room temperature.
I only made a few since I was testing it (I refrigerated the rest). I found that these balls needed a cool dipping sauce. All I had on hand was ranch dressing, but I think some sour cream and chives would work well.