Another fabulous thing about New York that I rarely take advantage of is the plethora of interesting ethnic grocery stores. I generally don't know what to do in the kitchen anyway, so I tend to shop in the more conservative D'Agostino's and Trader Joe's. Today, I challenged myself to walk into a grocery store, pick up a random food that I cannot identify, and learn what to do with it. So . . . I strolled into the grocery store, breezed past the display of plantain chips and Jarritos (been there, done that), and walked up to a pile of the ugliest fresh vegetables I've ever seen. Seriously, I half wondered if the store was selling voodoo dolls where the potatoes should have been. This would do just fine. I selected two of the hairiest and proceeded to the checkout.
I came home to do some research. Ah, the internet. What did we do without it? Well, apparently, we did not buy random produce and attempt to cook it. I surfed a bit. Red yautia (interestingly enough, my spell checker doesn't recognize my produce either). There it was. According to www.chow.com, "Yautia, a Hispanic staple, is a New World plant similar to taro. It has shaggy, scaly skin that does not quite cover the flesh, and it is elongated, tapered, and bumpy. Cooked, it is sweet, nutty, deep gold in color, and so dry and dense that it is often used for making dough." Um . . . okay. Looks more like a voodoo doll to me. Incidentally, I had never made dough the traditional way, much less with some shriveled Hispanic vegetable. I guessed I'd eventually have to cut off the hairy parts to start cooking it, so I searched the Joy of Cooking website for yautia cooking advice. Page 437 told me to peel off the brown stuff with a paring knife and either simmer or slice into thin bits to fry or bake. I decided to do both.
Twenty five minutes later, I had something that resembled a pink polka dotted peeled potato and a pan full of crispy (I baked them) taro chip-like things. I decided I needed backup for the next part. After I recruited the fearless Rachael for a taste test, we each took a bite of the yautia that had been simmered. "Doesn't taste like anything", said Rachael. She was right. It was a little potato-y, but definitely denser, a little less starchy, and definitely devoid of character. We then went for the chips. They were much better. We crunched a few and then I poured on a little kosher salt for good measure. We were happy. The chips were very much like store bought taro chips. Yummy, crispy, and slightly healthy. As I popped the last yautia chip in my mouth, I felt a little proud. I had discovered a new food. Thanks, blog!