I am a huge fan of Latin cuisine. The flavors, the simplicity and complexity of it all at once, is something that feels like home to me. Arepas are a staple in most Venezuelan and Colombian homes, and served at most meals. They remind me of the Italian cornmeal cakes I ate as a child, but these are made from Masarepa, an unleavened dehydrated cornmeal, very different from the masa harina used to make homemade tortillas and cornbread. Using masa harina will not yield the same results and the taste will not be soft and chewy as the arepas are with the Masaerpa.
Traditionally, arepas are filled with meats, such as chicken and pork, black beans and cheese, but in all honesty they are the perfect canvas for your creativity. I love to have these with pork carnitas and some cotija cheese, or with shredded chicken and avocado, but black beans and pepper jack cheese are equally as good.
There is a slight learning curve with these but they are doable if you are comfortable with making dough. The perfect arepa to me is a nice outer char, with a soft and chewy center, making it perfect vehicle for holding succulent carnitas, and the like. To be honest, I have been secretly wanting to stuff these bad boys with meatballs and mozzarella, for my fusion meatball parm arepas, and I think I may just do that!
I hope you give these Arepas Venezuelan Style, a try. Don’t be intimidated by the process, it is easy once you get the feel of the dough and what the texture should be. If I can do it, trust me, anyone can do it!
Do not use masa harina, you want the dehydrated cornmeal. The arepas will not be soft and chewy inside, and will not yield the same taste!
In a large bowl, add in 2 cups of warm water, tbsp. of oil, about a tsp. of salt, 1/2 tbsp. of sugar. Mix well, add in 2 cups of Masarepa, and 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. Mix well to combine. Let rest for five minutes, covered with a damp kitchen towel.
After five minutes, divide dough into roughly six round balls of dough. Line a cutting board with parchment or wax paper and take the ball of dough and press down firmly with the palm of your hand. Making each one roughly 1/2 inch in diameter and about 4 inch circles. Mine are never exact! They are handmade with love, so how can that be anything but, perfect!
In a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, add some vegetable shortening. and add the arepas, begin to lightly char the arepas, about 2 -3 minutes per side. Then lower the heat and let the arepas begin to cook through, about 6-7 minutes. They should be firm when tapped but sound hollow inside. Place on baking sheet lined with a cooling rack to finish cooking all the arepas. Let cool for a minute or two and slice with a sharp knife, and add butter, cheese, or Carne Mechada if desired.
If filling with Carne Mechada, add Mexican blend cheese if desired and serve immediately. Extras can be stored in an airtight container, and reheated on a griddle or in the microwave for about 40 seconds. Will be fresh for about a day when stored this way.
Arepas Venezuelan Style
A Venezuelan classic, that' is light, airy and so delicious, ready for your filling with your favorite meats, cheeses or just butter!
Credit: CrazySexySavor.com/Susan Mangieri-Maurath
- You can omit the cheese if preferred or use a Mexican blend or white cheddar.
- 2 c warm water
- 1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp. of sugar
- 1/4 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups of Masarepa (GOYA brand preferred) * NOT masa harina
- Place the water, oil and salt in a large bowl. Mix to dissolve the salt.
- Slowly add the Masaarepa, mixing as you add, stir in cheese if using. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rest for about 10 min.
- After resting, slowly add a bit more water no more than a tablespoon and only if the dough seems too dry to hold together well. Divide the dough into 6 approximately, similar pieces, on a cutting board lined with parchment or wax paper, begin to shape each piece into a disc about 1/2 inch thick and (about 4 inches in diameter). My arepas are never perfect, and that is perfectly fine.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Brush the skillet with a little vegetable shortening and add the arepas. Cook the arepas for 2-3 minutes on each side, just to seal the dough.
- Then, reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook the arepas for 6-7 minutes per side, until golden brown and lightly charred, reducing the heat of your skillet if necessary. (The arepas should be rather firm and sound slightly hollow when tapped.)
- Remove the arepas from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. If you will be filling the arepas, split them in half, either halfway through or all the way to make a sandwich with a sharp knife. Stuff as desired or serve with butter. Delicioso!
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