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SHORT RIB STEW WITH YUCA

This Brazilian Short Rib Beef Stew with Yuca is the ultimate cold weather comfort food! Slow cooked in a Dutch oven until the beef is succulent and fall-apart tender, this dish will quickly become a family favorite. Serve it over rice, buttered noodles or along a nice crusty bread to soak up the savory sauce.

Who can resist a comforting beef stew? Tender beef that melts in your mouth, hearty starchy vegetables and a flavorful deep sauce that makes you want to lick the plate clean.

This version, born and raised in Brazil, uses short ribs and yuca, making it a rich dish that will warm and sooth your soul even on the coldest days.

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And if you’ve never cooked with yuca root, don’t worry! I’ll teach you all you need to know about buying, preparing and cooking it.

In Brazil, this recipe is often made in a pressure cooker, but my version uses a Dutch oven instead. I find that nothing beats a stew simmering on the stove all day, filling your home with the most amazing smells. However, if time is an issue, you can easily adapt it to the Instant Pot or slow cooker.

WHAT IS VACA ATOLADA?

This dish, typical from the state of Minas Gerais (Southeast of Brazil), is a beef stew made with beef ribs and yuca.

The name Vaca Atolada translates to “Cow Stuck in the Mud”. The funny name has a few popular explanations. The most believed one says that the dish originated in the XVII century, when the explorers – known as bandeirantes – started the expeditions to search for gold in Minas Gerais.

To survive the journey, they would carry meat immerse in fat in a saddlebag, so the food would be preserved. During that time, thunderstorms were common, so the cattle would often get stuck in the mud. When that happened, it was time for a pause and for a hearty beef stew.

Another version believes that the explanation of the name is in the dish itself. The “cow” would be the pieces of beef and the “mud” the thick sauce.

INGREDIENTS TO MAKE SHORT RIB STEW WITH YUCA

Here’s what you’ll need to make Vaca Atolada:

Short ribs – I buy boneless, but you can use bone-in as well!

Yuca root

Onion

Garlic

Parsley

Tomatoes – I use fresh tomatoes, but canned crushed tomatoes would work too.

Tomato Paste

Red Wine – The alcohol will mostly cook off, but you can omit.

Beef Broth

Flour – to thicken. Omit or use gluten free options, if necessary.

Bay leaves

Salt

Pepper

Olive oil

WHAT IS YUCA?

Yuca (pronounced joo-kah), also known as cassava or manioc, is a potato-like starchy tubular root, very popular in Latin cuisine. It is the root used to make tapioca flour and pearls, after it is dried and powdered.

The long brown root has a thick, bark-like skin and white flesh. It averages between 6 to 12 inches long and 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Here in the United States, you will often find it covered in wax to help preserve it during its long journey.

WHERE DO I BUY IT?

Yuca can be found at the produce section of most grocery stores. If you can’t find it at your supermarket, try a Latin or Asian store. Or search the frozen aisle for the Goya brand, as they sell it already peeled and cut.

When buying fresh, make sure there are no mold or cracks. The flesh should be firm and white throughout, so if you see black specks, lines or blemishes (you might have to break up the end of the root to see) that run throughout the whole root, leave it behind as that yuca is no good! If the discoloration is restricted to only one or a few parts, you can cut it off.

HOW TO PEEL AND CUT YUCA

Peeling yuca can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! All you need is a sharp chef’s knife and a cutting board.

Start by cutting off the ends of the root and slicing it into smaller segments (about 2 to 3 inches).

Stand each piece up on its flat end and, using a sharp knife, cut away the skin vertically until it has been peeled off. Keep rotating and slicing away the skin until it is completely peeled.

Slice the peeled cassava root in half lengthwise to expose the woody core. Then, cut the piece lengthwise again, so that the yuca is now quartered into sticks with the core exposed.

Since the core is not tasty and has a woody texture, I recommend cutting it off. Stand each long stick up and use your knife to slice the inner corner off.

Your cassava is ready to be cooked!

HOW DO I COOK CASSAVA?

Yuca can be cooked the same way that you would potatoes. You can boil, sauce, fry or roast it.

Here, we add them during the last 30-40 minutes of cooking time, and let it simmer in the stew until very tender.

CAN I PREP YUCA AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes! You can peel and cut the cassava and then store it in the fridge, covered in water, for up to 4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.

HOW TO MAKE SHORT RIB STEW WITH YUCA

Despite the long cooking time, making this short rib beef stew is easy.

Here’s how to do it:

Start by seasoning the short ribs with salt and pepper, and tossing with flour. The flour will act as a thickening agent for the rich sauce.

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch-oven, over medium high heat and brown the ribs on all sides. Remove and reserve.

Add a little more oil, if needed, and sauté the onion and garlic, until softened. Then, add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, until softened.

Pour the red wine to deglaze the pot, making sure to scrape all those delicious browned bits from the bottom. Cook until the wine reduces by half.

Add the beef broth, tomato paste and bay leaves.

Return the short ribs along with any juices to the pot, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Skim any fat that has surfaced from the stew.

Stir in the prepared yuca, then cover and simmer until the short ribs are falling apart tender and the yuca is very soft, about 30 to 40 minutes.

If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the beef and yuca and boil the sauce until reduced. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper. Return everything to the pot and stir to combine.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve!

HOW TO SERVE SHORT RIB BEEF STEW

This stew pairs great with:

White or brown rice

A crusty baguette or sourdough

Dinner rolls

A green salad

Rice pilaf

Buttered noodles

A classic Brazilian combo: rice, beans (or tutu de feijão) and garlicky collard greens.

CAN I MAKE BEEF STEW AHEAD OF TIME?

Absolutely! In fact, I highly recommend it, as beef stew is the perfect make-ahead dish and the flavors will improve with an overnight rest in the fridge.

Just make sure to cool completely before refrigerating in an airtight container, up to 3 days.

You can then reheat it on the stovetop before serving!

FREEZING SHORT RIB STEW

I find that yuca, like potatoes, become grainy when frozen and thawed. So if you plan on freezing this stew, skip the yuca and add it later, when reheating.