yuca salad

The Game-That-Must-Not-Be-Named takes place this Sunday and calls for a lot of beer, wings and potato salad. But just as America’s ethnic groups place their own indelible flavor stamp on that other big American holiday, Thanksgiving, buffet tables around the country will reflect the fact that hyphenated Americans love their football too.

At our house we like potato salad well enough, but Game Day calls for a more assertive strategy: yuca en escabeche (or, as my friends and family know and love it: yuca salad).

Yuca salad is made from the indigenous South American yuca (Manihot esculenta, not to be confused with the Yucca plant that gets two “c”s and is from the Southwestern U.S.) which is like a denser, meatier potato. In the days before Columbus, natives used it to make cracker-like bread and even as a poison.

Today, yuca salad is the clear champion for full flavor, honking big texture, great colors and the ability to stand up to spicy wings and ribs. It has the heft to defend against the beer and alcohol blitz of an NFL championship game, but is not so exotic looking or smelling as to scare off cautious diners. And of course it makes for more interesting conversation among those who are really only there for the food and the commercials.

For more on yuca visit Hot, Cheap & Easy.

Natalia’s Ensalada de yuca/Yuca Salad
2.5 lb bag frozen yuca
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, sliced in thin rounds (red onion preferred)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs roasted red pepper, chopped (drained from a jar is fine)
1 tbs capers
20 pimiento stuffed green olives, sliced into thick rings
(2 tbs olive brine reserved)
1/4 cup white vinegar

Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add yuca (you want the yuca covered completely). Reduce heat to a simmer, but keep the boil on for 15 to 20 minutes. The yuca should lose most of its chalky whiteness and darken to yellow. The pieces will start to split and you can help them along to check insides for doneness. When done, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside to cool until handle-able.

While the yuca cooks, heat the oil in a sauce pan until very liquid. Add onions and cook at medium high until wilted and translucent. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for five to 10 minutes while you attend to the yuca.

The yuca will have a thick inner fibrous thread that must be removed (it will practically fall out by itself). Then slice the yuca into 1-inch by ½-inch slices (just like potatoes for potato salad) into a bowl. You will notice its density and starchiness! Add vinaigrette, mix well and serve. It can be kept in the fridge a few days, but must be brought to room temperature before serving.

For Super Bowl tapas recipes visit Hot, Cheap & Easy.