Friday, April 22, 2011

Arepas!



For a recent assignment for Spanish class, we had to research a Spanish/Latin dish and bring it into class. I choose to do arepas, a Venezuelan stuffed corn bread. The arepa itself is made with a special masa harina flour, specifically for making arepas. To make the dough I combined about 6 cups of the pre-cooked cornmeal with around 4 cups of water and a good pinch of salt in my kitchen-aid stand mixer. Because of the absense of gluten, the dough never really compiled into a ball, however it could be compacted easily and rolled out by hand.


I then rolled the dough into balls and flattened them until they were about half an inch thick. The dough had a smooth crumbly texture which allowed for easy shaping. Thirty-two arepas later and they were ready to fry.

Frying them went smoothly and rendered them crispy on the outside. The aromas emanating from the arepas smelled like polenta; a complex, toasty corn aroma. The frying process took around 1 hour and left them ready to bake. They went into the oven at 375F for 15 minutes. Now on to the fillings...

Traditional arepas fillings include scrambled eggs with tomato, peppers and onion and black bean with crumbled queso. My fillings of choice, however not entirely authentic, were slow-cooked black beans, soft goat cheese and a cabbage slaw with several latin flavours.
The slaw was a mixture of mandolined cabbage and carrot, and chopped cilantro. The vinaigrette was comprised of an emulsion was olive oil, lime juice, minced whole chipotle peppers, black pepper and salt.

The black beans, I soaked over-night in water and cooked until tender on the stove-top with garlic and salt. Homemade beans just don`t compare to mushy beans that taste of aluminum can...

Lastly, it was all topped off with a soft goat`s cheese...

The whole thing was good. I`m not sure how it compares to the real arepas, but I had fun making them.
The actual arepas was decent, but had a somewhat dense, chewy texture. By next morning, when I brought them into class, they were no longer crispy. The slaw was excellent; crunchy, acidic, fresh and light. After marinading over-night the flavours had completely been absorbed by the cabbage, attaining almost a very light pickle on the cabbage. The goat`s cheese added a lusciousness to the textures in the arepa, and a subtle goaty flavor. The black beans added earthiness. Most of them were gone by the time I came home after-school, but a few remained for me and my family. I`ve got to try the real deal ones ASAP.
 
The completed dish.

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