Senior year of high school I went to my best friend Annabelle’s house every Friday night for Shabbat dinner. I’m not Jewish, but I went for the food and the company. Annabelle’s family is from Venezuela so both are always enjoyable.
One of my favorite foods we’d have were arepas, which are fried cornmeal patties. Sometimes they had cheese inside, otherwise I topped them with it myself. Annabelle’s house always had a good selection of cheeses and dips. Burrata, queso fresco, crema, salsa…
I don’t get to visit Annabelle too often these days, but I have
learned to make arepas. They’re very simple: precooked cornmeal (like PAN), water and salt. Mix all that together, form into patties, fill or don’t fill, then fry them in a little oil.
You might not know any Venezuelan Jews, but you’ll appreciate these nonetheless.
- 1 cup Precooked cornmeal — this is different than regular cornmeal. It’s also called masa harina, masarepa or arepa flour. A common brand is Harina PAN.
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
Mix the water and salt together in a bowl, then gradually add cornmeal flour till completely combined. Let sit for a few minutes, then form into 3-inch diameter patties. These can be stuffed with cheese (I’ve used queso fresco once and Monterey Jack another time) or you can even make them larger and include meat or other fillings.
Once you have your patties formed, heat a cast iron pan with a little bit of vegetable oil. You aren’t deep frying these. Cook a few at a time until they are crispy on the outside and cooked through on the inside. I’ve read that you can finish them in the oven if necessary. I just do it in the pan.
Serve with butter, crema, salsa, guacamole or just plain. They’re pretty great any which way.