The best part of our Christmas Eve dinner is the yuca con mojo criollo. Yuca, (pronouced YooKah) also known as cassava was consumed in Latin America long before the arrival of the conquistadors. It was brought to Africa through the slave trade in the 17th century. It is an important food security crop for millions of people because it grows in poor soil and can withstand drought.
You can find yuca in grocery stores that have Latin American foods. It is a long tuber with a dark woody skin that is coated with a clear wax to preserve freshness. The bark-like skin is thick and it has to be sliced off, almost like whittling a piece of wood. Once peeled and cut into pieces about five inches long, boil the yuca in salted water. Do not cut into smaller pieces as small chunks will turn into mush. This vegetable is very bland and the mojo criollo sauce that is poured over it is for garlic lovers only.
Seville oranges are the second ingredient. They are harder to find and so you can make a similar juice by mixing 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed sweet orange juice and 1/8 cup of combined lime and lemon juice.
Here is the recipe:
yuca – about three 10 inch long tubers peeled and boiled till soft
8 very fat, very good quality garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion sliced super thin
1/2 cup Seville orange juice or the substitute concoction mentioned above
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
Smash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle (or food processor) until it forms a thick paste. Put the garlic, onion and orange juice in a bowl and let it sit for an hour. Heat the olive oil until it is very hot and then add the garlic and juice mixture for just a couple of minutes (do not let the garlic brown and be careful because it will splatter). Pour over the drained yuca, toss and serve.
A perfect compliment to roast pork with black beans, the yuca is biting and tangy with the sour orange and heady with garlic. It is even better the next day with leftovers, and then the day after that topped with a fried egg for breakfast.