What do you give your man who is hard to buy for on Father's Day? Well, like with all occasions around here, I give him food. One of my go to desserts for him is his favorite, Tres Leches, which I included on this occasion with Arepas and freshly made guacamole. Arepas are a South American comfort food easily found in Houston, but which I did not try until we were married and honeymooned in Cape Town, South Africa. A Colombian friend of my husband's that lived there introduced us to the dish. It was one of those foods that you never forget.
Arepas are warm corncakes that you can eat as is or split in the middle and fill with meat, cheese, grilled veggies or whatever your heart desires. Arepa recipes vary from region to region. While we were treated to our friend's Colombian version that is made with cheese and eaten as a side dish, I made mine using a Venezuelan recipe from the website Whast4eats.com that calls for the Arepas to be filled. After all, I had made my husband's favorite slow-cooked pork tenderloin and shredded it to use as a filling. I also had guacamole and salsa verde that wanted in on the action.
The recipe I chose was easy and similar to the many other versions I found on the web. The main ingredient, Harina Pan, can be found using an online locator or ordered online IF you can not readily find it at a local grocery store. This was not a problem for me as my local Fiesta and Food Town both sell it here in my neck of the woods.
Arepas adapted from What4eats.com
Makes 5-10 arepas
- Pre-cooked cornmeal (see notes) -- 2 cups
- Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Boiling water -- 3 cups
- Oil -- 3 tablespoons
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal and salt. Pour in 2 1/2 cups of the boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon to form a mass. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Using wetted 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.
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the patties, a few at a time, to form a light brown crust on one side, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side.
- 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.
After you locate this ingredient, you are good to go, because the other ingredients are very simple; water, salt, and canola oil. I used garlic salt instead of regular salt which added a nice touch.
First, form patties. The dough should not be sticky. If it is, add a little more Harina Pan, until dough feels soft and malleable.
Next, grill for about five minutes on each side. Grill marks are a signature of this dish and add a great touch!
Finally, add to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Check to make sure they are not overly browning. To make sure, initially bake for 15 minutes, let arepas rest for a minute, then tap center of an arepa. If it sounds hollow, then you are done. If not bake a little longer.
Aren't they are gorgeous? Let them rest for a few minutes before you slice them in half.
They taste just as good as they look. Promise. I paired mine with black beans and Mexican rice.
Here is a closeup of the little divas, or mozas.
If you give them a try, let me know how it goes. Happy cooking!
Carolina R. Little