By 300 Sandwiches
Ines came to visit E and I for the weekend. She and her sister Candace grew up in Margarita Island, and attended college in Michigan. Ines, now a senior, arrived on Friday, a ball of energy and smiles and happiness and a very nice breath of fresh air.
Fittingly, I met up with E and Ines after work at Caracas, a Venezuelan arepas bar and restaurant in the East Village. Arepas, crusty cornmeal cakes similar to English muffins or crumpets, are the national food of Venezuela. They’re cooked until brown, then stuffed with basically whatever you want. Caracas had about 20 delicious varieties of them. E and I ordered the arepas de pabellon: shredded beef, plantains, black beans and cheese. It was piping hot, gooey and became my favorite food after 2 bites.
Of course, I had to come home and recreate these. Ines told me I ended a special type of cornmeal, masarepa, or haring de maiz, or precooked cornmeal, to make the arepas with. Darling Ines told me she’d ship me what her family uses at home, which is likely this. In the meantime, I tracked down some masarepa at Fairway, the good ol’ Goya brand.
On Sunday night, I made my first batch to go with some flank steak E grilled up for dinner. Oh man, we’re going to gain like 50 pounds if we keep eating these addictive cakes. This morning, I made a fresh batch for both grilled cheese and a scrambled egg breakfast areas. They’re not bad for my first go at it, right? There will be more of these. I still have to recreate the pabellon. And, do this one for lunch. Only practice can make perfect, right?
Ines, do you approve?
1 cup masarepa (or harina de maiz)
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
handful chopped chives
cheese (I used a blend of Cotija and shredded cheddar, but use whatever you like).
salt and pepper
To make arepas: Combine masarepa, water, and salt into a bowl, until a wet dough forms. Let sit a few minutes to let flour absorb the water. Then, form dough into 4 inch patties of about an inch thickness. Melt pat of butter in skillet. Brown patties about 4-5 minutes on each side, flipping once. Then pop patties on to a greased baking sheet at 300 degrees for about 10-20 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, scramble eggs, adding salt pepper, and chives at the end.
To serve, slice arepas in half along the width, so it makes a pocket. Stuff arepa with eggs and cheese. (at the end, I like to pop the stuffed arepas back in the oven for a few more minutes so cheese melts and eggs stay warm.)
Recipe makes about 4 arepas, enough for you and another Venezuelan sweetie.