a distraction, and arepas

Posted on February 3, 2013

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I’ve been MIA for quite some time, and for that I apologize if anybody has noticed… (Sorry, Aimee!?) My life has been on such a bizarre roller coaster for the past while that I have failed to do a great many thing, but especially one of the things that have recently taken so much enjoyment in, cooking and sharing what I’ve cooked on my blog.

Now that things have hopefully hit the bottom, and will right themselves soon enough. I hope to get back into the swing of things and explore more of my kitchen/abilities in the kitchen soon. I would be beyond surprised if anymore shit could hit the proverbial fan…

For Christmas I received some lovely baking sheets, a hand mixer, and a cover for my cast iron skillet which I really hope to get good use out of soon. Since my day-to-day has been so kooky lately, I’ve left them all packed up for the time being, but as soon as I break them out, I’m sure that I’ll make good use of them.

Arepas haven’t been on my radar all that long. I won’t lie I wish that I said I’d wanted to make them for a really long time, and finally remembered to buy myself some masa harina, but. Not true. I live in a part of the city right now that has a high density of hispanic foods – restaurants, most of the corner stores sell primarily Goya products, and then a few other items, and Market Basket (the place I both love to shop and curse for being so crazy busy all the time) has aisles and aisles of bodia and Goya items. When I finally found myself some PAN, I decided I’d give this whole arepas things a whirl.
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I somehow found my way on to this awesome blog Use Real Butter – which I would suggest you read, but also follow as your one and only important kitchen rule, who the hell uses fake butter?! She has amazing photographs and I was motivated enough by the recipe for arepas that I went food shopping specifically for the items I needed after work (which I normally am loathed to do…) and I have to say, she did not steer me wrong. It was so worth it.

arepas
as found on use real butter
makes 1/2 dozen 5-inch arepas

2 cups harina PAN (word on the street is you can ONLY use this brand…)
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp salt
2-3 tbsps vegetable or canola oil (something without strong flavor)
keep vegetable oil available, you will use more for cooking
use a cast iron skillet, if you have one

Place the harina in a large bowl and add the warm water, salt, and vegetable oil. Fold the mixture until combined. Set the dough aside for at least ten minutes. The longer, the better. In this time you can prepare your guasacaca – see below. When the dough has sat for it’s ten minutes or more, mix it together with your hands and smoosh any or all lumps between your fingers. Make sure it is uniformly mixed.

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Begin to form patties approximately 1/2-inch thick and roughly 4-5 inches in diameter. Try to make them as even (thickness wise…) and try to make sure they have as few cracks as possible. Use a paper towel to coat your cast iron skillet. Do not use a non-stick pan, use a medium-high heat. Try not to crowd them as you cook them – I have a 12″ skillet and could only cook 3 at a time.  Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until you hear them start to crackle and brown.

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Peek underneath for doneness – they want to be a light golden, flip them over. Cook for another 5-10 minutes and use a flipper to check to make sure the bottom is evenly cooked. When you tap the arepa it should have a springy texture. If you make them in advance keep them warm in an oven around 200 degrees until your fillings are ready.

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I love me some jalapenos. They are such a great little bite to this guasacaca (aka avacado salsa, aka the most amazing thing you will ever have the chance to taste) and though you will be tempted to eat this stuff with a spoon – wait until you’ve got some arepas, then save the leftovers for when you need a chip and dip. Oh my god, I was an instant convert.

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guasacaca (guacamole salsa)

found and slightly adapted from use real butter

1 onion, peeled, topped, and cut into eighths
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
2-3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeño pepper, cleaned, seeded and cored
2 cups fresh parsley (cleaned)
2 cups fresh cilantro (cleaned)
pinch of salt
3 tbsps vegetable oil

Place the onion, avocado, vinegar, garlic, and jalapeño in a blender (or food processor) and purée until smooth. Add the parsley and cilantro and purée until smooth. If it is too dry and won’t blend, add more vinegar and push it toward the blade with a spoon or a spatula between pulses. Add salt to taste and then add the oil last.

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It’s beautiful, bright green, and so unbelievably wonderful. I literally ate it three days in a row and had ZERO problem doing so – on arepas, tacos, and then chips along side some burritos. Awesome.

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I also made reina pepiada arepas which are a chicken salad filling which is named in honor of Susana Duijm, Miss World in 1955 and a popular Venezuelan celebrity. I was a little standoffish about something that involved as much mayonaise as this recipe calls for, but I was willing to give it a try. I think it’s healthy to push your comfort level a little bit now and again with food.

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Reina Pepiada Filling
adapted from epicuious

2 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 small onion, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2- 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced ( used about 1-1/2…)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 scallion, white and green parts, finely chopped

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Clean chicken, remove visible fat, place in a medium saucepan with the onion and cover with cold water by about an inch of water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and simmer uintil cooked all the way through, which will take about 15 minutes. Remove from water when fully cooked and cool completely – tear chicken into bitesized shreds

In a medium prep bowl, mash up avocado in mayo and vinegar until you have removed all the lumps – I used a large dinner fork to smush this together. Mix in the cilantro, parsley, jalapeno, and garlic. Then add the chicken, red onion, scallion and mix until combined. Taste and add vinegar if needed to give it a bit of a tangy taste – you want tang, not sour. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cut the arepa almost in half, scoop out a little bit of the insides and fill with whatever your filling/topping choices are and enjoy!

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