by Heather Harris Brady
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be working in some south-of-the-border recipes as we head toward Cinco de Mayo. Today I’m bringing you arepas. Now they might be street food in your neck of the woods, but should you not be that lucky the good news is – it’s easy to make your own.
You do need the special masa, pre-cooked cornmeal, which you can order online. Note: This is not to be confused with masa harina. It’s often called masarepa or just look for the bag marked P.A.N.
I found it at my local Latino grocery, where the shopkeeper said most people prefer the Venezulean variety as opposed to the Colombian one. It comes in white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal and a sweetened variety. I’m using the plain white cornmeal.
You can cook these as patties, then split them for filling – or you can cook them filled with just about anything – cheese, refried beans, chopped veggies or meat. As you knead it the dough takes on a super-fun resilient texture that feels great when you work with it. These remind me very much of the fried cornmeal mush my grandma used to make, just in a different form. They’re gluten-free, easy, quick and delicious – and they’d make a terrific vegetarian entree.
Arepas, Makes about eight 3″ filled patties
- 2 c. precooked cornmeal
- 2 T. softened butter
- 1 t. salt
- 2-1/2 c. warm water
- 1-1/2 c. filling ingredients (shredded cheese, refried beans, etc.)
Combine the cornmeal and salt in a bowl. Swirl the warm water in with your fingertips. As the dough starts to come together knead in the butter. Continue kneading for two minutes until you have a soft, bouncy dough.
Assemble your filling ingredients. I’m using leftover fajita chicken, chopped fine, and cheese.
Pat a round of dough out into a circle and add a dab of filling.
Top it with another circle and pinch around the edges to seal.
When you have all your patties formed, heat 2 T. of olive oil in a heavy skillet. (You also grill these.)
Cook for about four-five minutes, until nicely browned. Then turn and do the other side.
Serve these hot with salsa or another spicy sauce of your choice.