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Yucca Empanadas
© David Nicolas

Yucca Empanadas

  • ACTIVE: 1 HR
  • TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 35 MIN
  • SERVINGS: Makes 18 empanadas
  • STAFF-FAVORITE
  • VEGETARIAN

"We try to make a different menu every day, often using the same ingredients," says Pedro Miguel Schiaffino about the challenges of creating recipes for a cruise ship. Yucca, one of the most ubiquitous root vegetables in the Amazon, appears in many of his dishes. Here he turns pure yucca into a dough for fried empanadas, a typical street food in Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian rain forest.

  1. Salt
  2. 1 pound frozen peeled yucca pieces, or 3 pounds fresh yucca—peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  3. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  4. 1 small red onion, minced
  5. 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  7. 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  8. 1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  9. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  10. 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  11. 2 tablespoons chopped golden raisins
  12. 2 scallions, minced
  13. 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  14. 1/3 cup Brazil nuts
  15. 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  16. Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the yucca with water and boil over moderately high heat until very tender, about 25 minutes for fresh or frozen. Drain well and return to the pan; shake over moderate heat for 10 seconds to dry out the yucca. Pass it through a ricer and add a large pinch of salt. Gently knead the yucca to form a firm dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, 7 minutes. Add the turmeric, paprika, cumin and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the raisins, scallions and vinegar and cook until the vinegar has been absorbed, 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a bowl; let cool. Spread the Brazil nuts in a pie plate and toast in the oven until lightly browned, 5 minutes; let cool, then chop. Stir the chopped Brazil nuts and mozzarella cheese into the onion mixture; season with salt.
  3. Using lightly oiled hands, pinch off 1 tablespoon of yucca dough and form into a 2 1/2-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Add 1 rounded teaspoon of the vegetable-cheese filling and enclose it in the dough, pinching it shut and lightly rolling it into a ball. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. You should have about 18.
  4. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 375°. Working in batches, fry the empanadas, turning, until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve right away.
Make Ahead The vegetable-cheese filling can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
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