In a small saucepan, combine the annatto seeds, aguardiente, and water and allow to soak for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by about 25 percent, to 3/4 cup. Strain the liquid into a medium mixing bowl and discard the seeds. Add the grated yucca, cloves, sugar, cayenne, and raisins. Mix together well and set aside.
Heat a griddle or large cast-iron skillet to high heat. Toast the banana leaves for about 3 seconds on each side (this will soften and make them easier to handle). Wipe along the grain of each leaf with a towel, then cut out and discard the cords. Place a leaf on the work surface with the grain running vertically. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the filling about 2 inches from the near edge and lay 3 slices of banana over it. Place another 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling on top of the banana. Fold the edge of the leaf over the filling to cover. Fold both sides of the leaf toward the center and roll until you reach the opposite end of the leaf. Double-wrap with a second leaf, with the grain running horizontally. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling until all the chapanas firmly with the thin kitchen twine.
Place them in a steamer over simmering water and cover with a few extra banana leaves, if desired. Cover tightly and steam for about 2 1/2 hours, maintaining the water level with hot water as necessary. Transfer the chapanas to a rack to cool thoroughly. Remove the cords, unfold the leaves, and serve. If desired, refrigerate for 1 to 2 days and bring to room temperature before serving.
Yuca, which is also called cassava, is available fresh and frozen in Hispanic markets. Check that there are no hairline cracks in the bark-like brown skin when purchasing fresh yuca. Yuca should be kept in a cool place outside the refrigerator. If you use some of it, peel the rest and store in the refrigerator, in water, to cover for 1 day, or freeze, well wrapped, for up to 3 months. To peel, first scrub and then cut it in half crosswise. Quarter each section lengthwise, then peel away the outside skin with a sharp knife. Rinse before cooking.
c.1997, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger, all rights reserved
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