In New York City, people are familiar with arepas from street fairs, where they’re grilled and served with a thick slice of mozzarella cheese. In other parts of the country, I’ve learned they go virtually unknown! Most people describe them as being like corn bread, but it’s not exactly like that…think of them more like a baked polenta cake that tastes like a corn tortilla. I had mine last night stuffed with cheese and avocado, topped with tomatillo salsa. Delicious! There are literally three ingredients for a basic arepa:
2 1/2 cups arepa flour (masarepa – this is specially prepared corn flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups (approximately) very hot water
3 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
Oil, for pan frying
1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Preheat pan on medium low heat. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients together to make a thick, pliable dough. It should be wet enough so that the edges won’t crack too much when compressed into a disk. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. If it is too wet, add a little more water.
2) Shape a bit of dough into a ball. Using the back of a small pan or other flat bottomed object, press the dough ball into a disk approximately 3 inches in diameter by 1 inch thick. Smooth out the edges, and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Place about a tablespoon of oil into hot pan. Place some arepas into the pan and fry on each side for 5 minutes. They should develop a crust, but not brown too much, like an English muffin. Transfer the pan fried arepas to a lined cookie sheet and finish in the oven for 15 minutes. Cut open and stuff with cheese (mozzarella or Jack cheeses work well), or filling of choice. Eat ’em while they’re hot!