January 27, 2013

Breakfast at home: Arepas (rellenas de queso)

I've been wanting to make these for ages, so I finally decided to get to it. After all, they didn't appear to be terribly difficult, and they are an absolute staple of the cuisines of Colombia and Venezuela (with other corn cakes variants throughout the rest of South America).

Naturally, there are an awful lot of versions out there, but I went straight to one of my favourite recipes blogs, My Colombian Recipes, and chose the one that best suited my purpose: arepa rellenas de queso.

As you can see, I was using yellow masarepa, instead of the prescribed white, but as I understand the only difference to be the colour of the resulting arepa, I wasn't worried about it. In fact, the golden colour of the finished arepa looks quite pretty to me, although if I had been eating white ones all my life it might look a little strange. Still, the very fact that the manufacturer makes yellow masarepa, which is, after all, specifically flour for making arepas, gave me all the permission I needed to go ahead.

This is a very simple recipe. In my online perusals, I found versions that had cheese (and sometimes egg yolk) mixed right into the dough, but I thought that it would be better to go with a "straight up" version, and add the cheese after the fact. I can't give you better directions than Erica does over at My Colombian Recipes, so skip on over to this link to get the recipe.

I made a half-recipe, which was three arepas, because I didn't want to have leftovers. Now I understand that they hold up rather well for a day or two (and can be re-purposed to dip into soup, or split, dipped in egg and re-fried), so I will probably make a full batch next time. I also made a note that I could easily turn a half-batch into four arepas (or a full batch into eight), to portion-control the sizes a little more. They are rather filling! The uncooked dough can also be kept in the fridge for a few days, if well wrapped and sealed to prevent it from drying out.

I note that the middles took a little longer to cook than the recipe expressly indicates, but it may have been that my skillet temperature was a bit low (or my arepas were a little thick). It didn't take much longer to get them to a point where I could split them, although splitting hot corn cakes is a tricky business if you want the result to be tidy. I clearly need more practice in this regard. I also note that other recipes suggest covering with a lid at the end or popping the fried arepas into a hot oven, briefly, to ensure that the middles are cooked. If I'm making more arepas with the same amount of dough next time, I suspect they'll be a bit thinner, and cook a bit faster. There's also the temptation of arepitas, which are little bite-sized arepas. Perhaps a fun party food?

As you can see below, we went the "benedict" route for our arepas rellenas de queso. I filled the arepas with monterey jack cheese, and we topped them with steamed eggs and hot sauce. That's fried garlic sausage on the side - hardly culturally accurate (a nice chorizo would have been preferable) - but we had some that needed using up, and we both gravitate toward fried meats at breakfast. Scrambled eggs would have also made a good topping, or avocado slices. Or more cheese!

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