I was introduced to arepas for the first time while living in Charlotte and eating with my friends Juan and Caty. Caty (Catalina) is from Venezuela and loves to cook arepas. She has an arepa-maker, which makes cooking them easier, but I was told how to prepare and cook the dough on the stove top. I have had a failed attempt at making papusas because I used the wrong dough, so it’s very important to have the good starting ingredients or you’re doomed to fail.
A LITTLE AREPA HISTORY
Latin America has a million and one uses for corn. Some examples include bread, tortillas, tamales, empanadas and buñuelos, as well as to prepare drinks such as atole, champurriada, guarapo, mazato, champus and chicha. It is also used in soups, ajiaco, guisos, masamorra and polenta. With all of the options for corn, I’m convinced the arepa is the winner.
Back at the turn of the 20th century, the indigenous people of Columbia would beat the corn on the inside of a hollowed out tree trunk (called a pilón) so that skin would break away and be discarded. Then the insides would then be boiled and ground on a concave stone and formed into a dough. Luckily a Costa Rican friend of mine gave me the arepa dough and a few tips on getting the consistency correct as well as cooking them on the stove top.
Check out the arepa recipe below and enjoy.
2 Cups of Arepa Flour
2 Cups of warm water
1 Tablespoon of softened butter
1/2 Teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper
A pinch of salt
1 1/2 Cups of cooked ground or shredded beef seasoned with chipotle peppers.
1/2 Cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 Cup of cooked and seasoned black beans
1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the warm water slowly into the arepa flour, pepper and salt until it’s well mixed and a firm dough.
2. Fold the softened butter into the dough until well blended.
3. Break the dough into four equal parts and form rounded patties.
4. Heat a non-stick or stainless pan on medium-high heat and place in the four arepa patties, cook for 6-7 minutes on each side until golden brown and slightly crisp on both sides.
5. Meanwhile, in two other pots heat the beef filling in one and the beans in the other.
6. Cut the arepas in half and fill with beef, cheese and beans. ENJOY!