Once upon a time while in college, I had a roommate (turned psychotic boyfriend) from Venezuela... I'll call him "Francisco" (because that was his name). --It was an absolutely disastrous relationship from the get-go, from the point we crossed that treacherous roommie line until I finally threatened to have him deported and married someone else. Ahh the memories...
But I was young and resilient back in the day and quickly moved on to the next romantic catastrophe without looking back.
Besides some fantastic material for my memoirs, the one thing I took away from that relationship was the addictive taste for arepas and the talent to make them.
Arepas are flat, unleavened gordita-like patties made of white cornmeal which can be grilled, baked, boiled, or fried. (I prefer to bake mine.) They are far easier than buttermilk biscuits to make, are very hearty, and can be stuffed with a variety of foods to be eaten like sandwiches or as an accompaniment to a meal.
To make arepas, you need only find a small yellow bag of Harina PAN (if you're lucky, you might find it in the Hispanic section of your local grocery) and follow the directions on the bag, or follow mine...
- 2 cups Harina PAN pre-cooked cornmeal
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon Salt
- 2 1/2 cups luke warm water
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal and salt. Pour in and mix with clean hands to form a mass. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Using wet hands, form balls of dough out of about 1/4 cup of dough and press to form a cake about 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick. (If the dough cracks at the edges, mix in a little more water and then form the cakes.)
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, lightly brown arepas on one side then flip and brown on the other side (most recipes instruct to sauté in hot oil although a nonstick pan works just fine and the arepas are just as tasty sans grease).
- When all the patties have been browned, transfer them to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they sound lightly hollow when tapped. Serve immediately.
Arepas make great picnic food and can be stuffed with anything that you might put in a biscuit or sandwich or anything that just sounds good to you. Enjoy!
"There is nothing to which men, while they have food and drink, cannot reconcile themselves."