MuQueCa’s fried yucca with carne del sol

Beef with special sauce and a side order of fries (but it’s not what you’re thinking)
By KENJI ALT  |  September 5, 2007

Most people who visit MuQueCa, the familial Brazilian restaurant in Inman Square, go for the eponymous seafood stew ($11.95/fish; $14.95/mixed seafood) — and with good reason. Served in a handmade clay pot, the dish consists of cod, shrimp, and mussels gently cooked in an aromatic broth of onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Heavy with the fresh flavors of the ocean, it’s big enough to satisfy two healthy appetites. But on the left side of the menu, just between the Brazilian crab cakes ($5.95) and the sautéed shrimp with garlic oil and cilantro ($6.95), is what I’m after tonight: fried yucca with carne de sol ($5.95).

I am a French-fry gourmand. Whether it’s the thin-cut-double-fried-crunchy-on-the-outside-creamy-in-the-middle variety, thick and greasy steak fries, or crispy patatas bravas at a tapas bar, as long as it involves potatoes and hot oil, I’ll eat it (I’m even an un-closeted fan of fast-food fries). Fried yucca, I’ve discovered, is French fries taken to the next level. Its high starch-and-sugar content helps it become shatteringly crisp on the outside, while remaining luxuriously buttery and slightly sweet in the middle. Carne de sol, made by salting slivers of beef and allowing them to dry and ferment slightly in the sun over the course of several days, is a richer, beefier, more complex version of your standard beef jerky. Try alternating between bites of the yucca and the beef: the salty, chewy carne is the perfect foil to the crisp, sweet yucca.

The dish is served with a creamy, tangy sauce packed with garlic and herbs that pushes it over the edge from good to crave-able. The menu describes the sauce as a “secret, created by our chef,” and a quick inquiry to the waitress about its ingredients confirmed this, as she suddenly pretended not to speak English.

Available for $5.95 at MuQueCa, 1093 Cambridge Street, in Cambridge. Call 617.354.3296.

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