Here is a simple, yet satisfying recipe with a South American twist – arepas with chicken and veggie stew (of course, accompanied by sauteed plantains).
I tried my first taste of an arepa not from a restaurant or at someone’s house – let alone in Columbia or Venezuela. I tried my first taste of it from one of many wonderful food carts in New Haven, CT. I am not really sure how an authentic arepa is supposed to taste, but what I tried few weeks ago was intriguing enough for me to do an online search for an arepa recipe. The arepa I tasted looked like a perfectly shaped pancake, though it was about 1/4 inch or so thick. It was soft and sweet and provided a pretty good balance to the savory meat and vegetables served alongside. So, reading through the recipes, I wasn’t quite sure if they were going to result in the version of arepa I tried, or the one that it was supposed to taste like. Only a native can confirm for me, I guess!
Anyway, the first thing I learned while reading through the recipes was there are different types of cornmeal/corn flour. The yellow cornmeal I was familiar with is NOT what you use to make arepas. You need precooked corn flour. Arepa flour is finer, and the at least the brand I bought (PAN) was definitely more white than yellow. After considering a few recipes, I settled for one that appealed to me for whatever reason. This one used a mixture of flour, grated cheese and sugar mixed with hot milk and melted butter.
You are right…I couldn’t get myself to use the whole 1/3rd cup sugar or the 6 tablespoons of butter the recipe called for. I used a little less than 1/4 cup sugar and about 2 tablespoons butter. I also used only 1% milk. Last modification to the original recipe was the omission of the cheese slice to make arepa sandwiches. So, either follow mine if you want a lighter version, or go with the original recipe at this site. With lower sugar and butter, the arepas tasted best freshly made. You also have to warm any leftover arepas so soften them as they do get firm when refrigerated.
1 cup 1% milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup arepa flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ground frozen corn kernels (I didn’t use any in my recipe)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Bring milk to a light boil, and add cubes of butter to melt.
- If using frozen corn, add it to a food processor and pulse till coarse. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix the arepa flour, salt and sugar. Add the mik/butter mixture and mix to make a smooth, but sticky dough.
- If using pulverized corn, mix it into the dough along with grated mozzarella cheese.
- Bring the dough together in a ball, and refrigerate for about an hour.
- Roll out arepa dough into a 1/2 inch thick sheet and cut with a 3″ circle cookie cutter, or do what I did: take golf ball sized dough, pat it into a disc.
- Cook arepas on a buttered skillet till golden brown on each side. Note: Due to lower sugar and fat content in my dough, my arepas did not brown as much as the original recipe might have.
- Serve freshly cooked arepas with a meat dish of your choice. I served mine with a spicy chicken and veggie stew and a side of sauteed plantains!