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Yucca Empanadas

"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.


slideshow  More Delicious Fried Foods


  • Total Time:
  • Servings: Makes 18 empanadas

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  • Salt

  • 1 pound frozen peeled yucca pieces, or 3 pounds fresh yucca—peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 small red onion, minced

  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 2 tablespoons chopped golden raisins

  • 2 scallions, minced

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1/3 cup Brazil nuts

  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 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.

Contributed By Photo © David Nicolas Published July 2011

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