January 27, 2013
Breakfast at home: Arepas (rellenas de queso)
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!