Paraguayan Shepherd’s Pie is a hearty beef casserole layered with a mashed root vegetable. Yucca, also known as cassava or manioc, is enriched with eggs, cheese and evaporated milk and replaces the usual potatoes. Yucca is one of Paraguay’s staple foods and appears at almost every meal. For best results, be sure to use a potato masher to mash the cooked yucca. The dough in this recipe takes patience. Use frozen yucca for ease of preparation. This dish is best served immediately after baking. When reheating any leftovers, pour a bit of beef broth over the top to rehydrate the dish.
FOR YUCCA DOUGH:
PLACE yucca in large saucepan. (If using frozen yucca, do not thaw before boiling. If using frozen or fresh yucca, after peeling, make sure to remove and discard fibrous centers.) Cover with water and add 1 teaspoon salt and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender; drain.
PLACE some of the cooked yucca in large bowl and mash with a potato masher. Remove any hard fibrous strings as you are mashing. Add more cooked yucca and mash on top of what was mashed before. Once all cooked yucca is mashed, let cool for 5 minutes. Add cheese, evaporated milk, eggs, oil and remaining teaspoon salt. Combine with wooden spoon. Using hands, knead mixture for 3 to 4 minutes directly in bowl. (Mixture will be quite gooey at first.)
FOR MEAT FILLING:
BROWN meat in large skillet on medium heat until no longer pink; drain, if desired. Stir in onions, tomatoes, green pepper, garlic, chile, cumin, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to low; cover. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes or until until vegetables are soft and mixture is juicy. Add a little water, if mixture is dry.
TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE:
PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease and flour 13 x 9-inch (3 quart) baking dish.
LAYER prepared baking dish with half the mashed yucca; spread evenly with spatula or back of spoon. Top with meat filling. Cover meat filling with remaining mashed yucca.
BAKE for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until bubbly around edges and lightly browned on top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.