Arepa! Arepa! WooHoo!! Every time I say that word I wanna yell and scream and act like a fool! AREPA!!! HOOOO!!! Ok, now that I got that out of my system, lets get this show rolling. That little concoction above is my first attempt at making arepas. What is an arepa? It's a cornmeal cake that I believe originates from Venezuela and Columbia. I'm not sure which one it is, and I don't think either country will admit that the other is the originator. In any event, arepas are very tasty and very easy to make. Seriously, it doesn't take a member of Mensa to put one of these things together. In fact, you don't even really need a recipe to make one. But, there is one main ingredient that you must have to accomplish this, and there is no getting around it.
Without this stuff, you aren't making arepas. It's as simple as that. What's in the bag is pre-cooked cornmeal. I'm not sure what P.A.N. stands for, but this is your main ingredient. You can find it in your Mexican food aisle in the supermarket. I got mine at Food 4 Less for about $2.50 or so.
If you search online, you can find a lot of crazy and elaborate recipes for this. That's cool and all, but the basic recipe only needs about 3 ingredients: P.A.N., warm water, and salt. The one I used added a pinch of sugar, which I totally agree with. Remember, it's all about balance.
The bag has a recipe on there, which works just fine. But, you don't have to really worry too much about that. When making this, you are really going by feel. You are gonna use your hands to mix it together, and when it becomes a soft dough, you are done. Then you shape it into a patty and pan fry for about 6 to 8 minutes on each side. Place on a paper towel when done to drain the excess oil and you are done. Let me break this down a little slower.
Start with about 1 cup of warm water. Add in about1/2 to 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt, and a good pinch of sugar. Use your fingers to get the salt and sugar mixed in. Now start stirring in about 1 cup of the P.A.N. a little at a time. At first, it's going to seem like it's not doing anything. After you add about a half cup, it will get to the consistency of warm cream of wheat.
Keep stirring in the P.A.N. and soon it will start to pull away from the sides and tighten up. When it does this, it's about time to back off the P.A.N. If you add too much, it will seem really dry and crack around the edges when shaping your patties. If dry, then just add a bit more water.
You can shape these to whatever tickles your fancy. I kept it simple and just made them round.
Now it's time to cook. You are not trying to deep fry these things, but you do need to have enough oil in the pan to make sure the entire side is in oil. I learned this the hard way. The first batch came out a beautiful golden brown. There wasn't that much oil left in the pan and I thought it would be ok for the next batch. WRONG!! What ends up happening is that the few spots in oil are the only spots that turn colors, and you end up getting black, burned spots in a few areas. No mess up pics to show you, but take my word on it. Here is what they should look like.
Some recipes say to throw them in the oven for a few minutes once out of the skillet, some don't. I did it just to be on the safe side. I'm not sure if it made a big difference.
Once it cools some, get a serrated knife and split down the middle. From there, feel free to stuff the shit out of it! For the top picture, I put in sour cream, cheese, and taco mix from the night before. And guess what? IT FUCKING ROCKED!!! The outside has this super crispy texture while the inside is nice and light. This is some seriously good eating!
One of the best ways to enjoy this warm, pocket of love (Wow! I need to start using that line more often!) is simply with butter. Corn and butter go hand in hand. This is no exception. Butter is rich on it's own. You add it to an arepa, and the richness jumps up 10 fold. It really is that good.
When my mom tried it, she was like, "It tastes like hot water cornbread!" Know what? She was right. It did remind me of that. For those of you not from the south or happen to be African American, you probably have no clue to what I am talking about. Well, it's....you are just gonna have to wait until next week when I make it! HA! Or just search google, which you will most likely do.
Two days after this first batch, I decided to try it again. This time I wanted to do something more breakfast or brunch oriented. Here is how I shaped them this time.
While that was cooking, I chopped up some onion and tomato. Once the arepas were done cooking, I made a quick omelette and cut it to fit the arepa. I just used one side of an arepa for this. Here is the prep station.
The greenery is basil. Once everything got on there, I sliced it in half on the bias and put a spot of sour cream on top. What do you think? Good for breakfast?
I thought it was good. And that's what counts, right?
I hope you liked this one. I had fun making it. Even more fun eating it. All in all, just know that you don't have to work hard to make really good food. When it comes to Arepas, you can add anything to it or nothing at all to enjoy it.
Oh yeah, AREPAAAAAAAA!!!!!!