Pastelón de Yuca (Cassava and Chicken Casserole)

Pastelón de Yuca (Cassava and Chicken Casserole): An amazing casserole, a  creamy, cheesy chicken filling between two layers of smooth cassava.

Why spend money on losing weight when it’s mainly a question of common sense? Diets are a relatively new phenomenon, unless you count the biblical “milk and honey”, “bread and fishes” or the Roman “wine, women and song” as diets.

The compulsion to go on a diet is relatively recent, because not so long ago being fat was not viewed as a bad thing. Ask your Dominican grandma, who will probably tell you that you’re much too thin no matter how much weight you’ve put on, or that you’re not feeding your children enough, no matter how chubby they may be. When I first arrived in the DR I had to learn to accept that being told I was “looking fat” was a compliment, especially from older women.

Pastelón de Yuca (Cassava and Chicken Casserole): An amazing casserole, a  creamy, cheesy chicken filling between two layers of smooth cassava topped with crispy Parmesan.

It’s not just older women, though. The general Dominican beauty ideal, while no longer endorsing actual plumpness, has not reached the extremes of the North American/European bone-thin look, for the time being at least. Just compare photos of fashion models in Dominican magazines to their equivalents in the US and Europe.

In nineteenth century Europe and North America, dieting was usually linked to an austere, abstinent lifestyle and its main advocates were puritanical religious leaders. Later on, this role was taken over by people with other agendas in mind, like Dr William Kellogg who advocated a restrictive diet that just happened to include his breakfast cereals. This was the subject of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s hilarious novel, The Road to Wellville, which was also made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins as the very eccentric Kellogg.

Pastelón de yuca (Cassava and chicken casserole)

In the 20th century, thinness became desirable for aesthetic as well as health and religious reasons. The 1920s saw a revolutionary change in female fashions, with those drop-waist dresses that only flattered hipless and breastless figures. “You can never be too rich or too thin”, declared that scrawny specimen Wallis Simpson (the Duchess of Windsor) in the 1930s. The 1950s saw a brief revival in the curvaceous look, best exemplified by Marilyn Monroe, a size 12 (US) who would probably be considered obese in this day and age, but the ultra-slim androgynous look returned in the 1960s. Since then, there has been little variation in this ideal: much larger breasts are fashionable now, but as nature rarely includes these in the same package as extreme thinness, enhancement surgery has had to come to the rescue.

A huge slimming industry has sprung up, from the grapefruit diets of the 1930s and countless since: Scarsdale, Hollywood, F-Plan, GI, Food Combining, Cabbage Soup, Atkins, seaweed, liquid, Beverly Hills, all the accompanying books, products, magazines, supplements; diets based on dubious criteria like your star sign or blood type, not to mention questionable procedures like colonic irrigation… and dieting clubs like Weight-watchers, all resulting in the loss and gain of millions of pounds, in every sense of the word. Many people desperate to lose weight fell victim to anorexia, bulimia or amphetamine addiction, or resorted to high-risk surgical procedures like liposuction.

Pastelón de Yuca (Cassava and Chicken Casserole): An amazing casserole, a  creamy, cheesy chicken filling between two layers of smooth cassava.

Apparently we spend much more money on all this than is spent on feeding the world’s starving people, and despite all those years of dieting we have entered the 21st century with what the media is calling an obesity crisis, with a higher percentage of overweight people than ever before.

The truth is that diets, especially faddish crash diets, rarely work, and what does keep weight down is a combination of genetics (i.e. luck), sensible moderation in eating habits and an active lifestyle.

Aunt Ilana
Pastelón de Yuca (Cassava Casserole)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Pastelón de Yuca (Cassava and Chicken Casserole): An amazing casserole, a creamy, cheesy chicken filling between two layers of smooth cassava topped with crispy Parmesan. Serve with salad for a complete meal.
Author:
Serves: 6 porciones
Ingredients
  • 1½ lb [0.7 kg] of cassava, peeled and washed
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 /12 teaspoon of salt
For the filling
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 sprigs of cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 large onions, cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • ½ cup of grated mozzarella
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (or more, to taste)
To assemble
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • ⅓ grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cut the cassava into small pieces and boil until it is cooked through, after adding salt to the water. Remove from the water and discard the water. Mix yuca with milk, butter and egg and mash until it becomes a soft puree (if you have a potato ricer, use it to obtain a smoother puree). Set the cassava puree aside.
For the filling
  1. Mix chicken breasts, cilantro and garlic. Cover with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Boil until chicken is very tender, adding water if it becomes necessary. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Remove chicken from the liquid (you can save it and use it as chicken broth). Shred the chicken into very small pieces.
  3. In a skillet heat the butter over very low heat. Add in onions and cook stirring until the onions have become transparent. Stir in chicken and cook and stir until the chicken is heated through. Sprinkle with the flour and mix well. Pour in the milk and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and there is a small amount of thick sauce in the skillet. Remove from the heat and mix in the mozzarella
  4. Season with salt to taste. Reserve.
To assemble
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 ºF [230 ºC].
  2. Butter a mid-sized baking pan 8 x 8 inches [20 x 20 cm]. Spread half of the mashed yuca, smoothing it out to obtain a level layer. Top with the chicken filling, spreading into a level layer. Top with the remaining mashed yuca. Spread and smooth it with a fork. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.
  3. Bake until it is heated through and the top turns golden brown (15-20 mins).

Notes
For the filling, you may use vegetables, chicken, and beef (or just use cheese), but this creamy chicken goes perfectly well with the yuca.

If you want to save some time, use supermarket roasted chicken for the filling, shred it, and skip the step in which you boil the chicken, proceeding with the remaining steps as instructed.
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{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Rosa May 25, 2015, 11:17 PM

    Omg.. so going to try this version. The one I make is with ground meat and has no cheese. I just LOVE Yuca and am always looking for new ways to make it.

  • Julieta December 12, 2014, 12:52 AM

    Hi Tia Clara!

    My mom and I are dying to try this recipe. I bought some frozen yuca rallada at the supermarket but now we’re debating whether it’ll work with this recipe. What do you think? Are there any changes I could make so I can put that big frozen pack of yuca to use ;)?

    • Aunt Clara December 14, 2014, 1:47 PM

      As a matter of fact, frozen yuca is best used for this recipe, as it tends to get a bit mushy, which is perfect here. Go ahead.

  • Dhyana June 9, 2012, 11:30 PM

    At what temperature should this casserole be baked?

  • Chef Mireille June 8, 2012, 3:18 PM

    I've only ever had pastelon with plantain. I like this variation!
    My recent post Blueberry-Pumpkin Seed Parfait