Yuca with Pork

There used to be a Salvadoran restaurant across town, with the rather creative name of “Restaurant El Salvador.” I had my first introduction to pupusas there–a life changing event, to be sure. It was also the place where I was introduced to yuca con chicharron.

While chicharron translates as pork rinds, what this restaurant served up was nothing like what you would get out of a bag at the Kwik-E-Mart. These little morsels had a good bite of meat on them and a crisped up fat that would put bacon to shame.

Unfortunately, that restaurant closed quite a while back–long before Josh was around for a food expedition. There are a few other Central American restaurants in our area to be sure, but so far I haven’t found a place that serves up this dish quite as well as Restaurant El Salvador did.

The recipe below was inspired by my memory of that dish, with one substitution and one addition. In place of pork rind or pork belly, I used a butt roast. I also added a sofrito of sorts to introduce a little moisture back into the yuca.

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
3-4 medium tomatillos, chopped
1 medium-sized lime
1 teaspoon salt
2 lbs yuca (cassava), peeled and cut into fork-size pieces
1.5 lb pork roast, either shoulder or butt, cut into fork-size pieces
flour, seasoned with salt and black pepper, for dredging
canola oil, for frying

This is another “fry things separately, then mix them together dish.” You could probably simplify this dish into a single pan recipe, but I like the extra crispiness and depth of flavor that you get from browning the meat and frying the yuca separately, and then mixing things together in the final step.

Heat 3″ of oil in a cast iron pan. When the oil is hot, start frying the yuca in batches, careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove the yuca to paper towels when the pieces brown.

While the yuca are frying, heat a small amount of oil in the bottom of a 12″ stainless steel pan. Dredge the pieces of pork in the seasoned flour and brown in small batches.

OK, now you have yuca frying and the pork browning. Time to prepare the sofrito.

Place the green pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro and tomatillos in a blender or food processor. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and the juice of one lime. Puree until smooth–about the texture of a pesto.Transfer this mixture into a sauce pan and heat over a low flame for about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside when the sofrito changes color from bright to dark green.

By this point, you should have several batches of browned pork and fried yuca set aside. You are now ready for the final assemblage.

When you have finished browning your last batch of pork, transfer all of the pork and yuca back into the frying pan.

Let simmer for a couple minutes, allowing the yuca to absorb some of the pan drippings. Now add the sofrito to the pan and combine, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Let the dish cook for another couple of minutes, and then serve hot.

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