Alcapurrias have become our new holiday tradition. This is a time consuming dish to make and so my mother would only make this on request for special occasions and birthdays. Since they are round and made of yuca, the family coined the phrase "Yuca Balls" in order to make them comprehensible to our non-Puerto Rican friends. Joy of all joys, they are naturally gluten-free. While growing up alcapurrias were largely guarded in our home, as they would get stolen right off of our plate. If you weren't watching and holding onto your alcapurria, it was free game. I think this was the only type of meal where there was horseplay allowed, so it brings back such fond memories for me. If you requested this dish for your birthday, then you would get the largest amount of alcapurrias to eat, and even some to take home. Alcapurrias are crunchy on the outside, and warm and fluffy on the inside. They are filled with a mouthful of flavor. Picadillo - the meat mixture is garlicky and savory. While the yuca is a little sweeter, this totally fits the bill for my favorite sweet and savory combinations. The pork is tender and has layers of garlic, cilantro, and oregano. For our family an alcapurria is a complete meal.
Yuca pronounced YOO-ka is also known as manioc or cassava. It is mostly found in the Carribean, Latin America, Asia and Afirca. It grows year-round, which makes it convenient to cook with. It is a root and is naturally low in sodium, high in iron, and very high in Vitamin C. It also offers some protein, some dietary fiber but is counted as high in carbs. Yuca root provides some niacin and calcium as well. One-half cup of cooked yuca contains about 40 calories.
Although my mother used to make pasteles (another Puerto Rican dish similar to a tamale but made with a mixture of plantains, green bananas, yuatia, potato, and a green pumpkin-like squash and wrapped in plantain leaves instead of corn husk)) for Christmas Eve dinner, it was never our favorite. We always loved the alcapurrias and would relish the few times per year my mother would make it. As we make our alcapurrias we play my mother's favorite Puerto Rican Christmas music all the while thinking of her. As we form each yuca ball, it is our greatest hope that we are creating them with equal amount of love and passion those made by mami.
Recipe - La receta
4 to 5 yuca, pieces
1 small onion
1 small bell pepper, chopped
4 tbsp. oil with achiote (annato seeds)
1 garlic, head
20 olives,green pimento stuffed
1 tbsp. Capers
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
¼ lb. ground pork
1 tomato sauce, small can
Meat Mixture - Picadillo:
Alcapurrias - Yuca Balls
Heat about 1 tbsp. of oil and sauté chopped garlic, onion, and pepper. Add ground pork and cook until browned. Add capers and olives to the meat. Season to taste with salt and peeper, add in oregano. Cook on medium heat until meat is tender add in tomato sauce.
Peel the yuca. Then cup it into manageable pieces to place in your food processor.
Step 2. Grate the Yuca fine in food processor.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Step 3. Squeeze yuca through cheese cloth to release the starch liquid.
Note: Make sure to reserve this liquid in case the yuca is too dry when putting together the alcapurrias.
Step 4. Make achiote oil by placing achiote in oil and simmering on low until the oil becomes orangey red.
Add the oil with achiote into the grated yuca and mix well. Set aside.
Place ½ cup to ¾ cup yucca masa in the palm of your hand and spread over the entire hand about ¼ inch thick (enough to cover the meat).
Step 7. Put meat mixture in the center and bring edges of the dough together. Shape as a ball.
Step 8. Fry in plenty of oil until an orange-golden brown. Do not allow the oil to get too hot or too cold.
Step 9. Drain on paper towel.
Serve hot and eat immediately!!
This particular recipe yielded about 34 alcapurrias with masa leftover for even more alcapurrias!!