Saturday, February 19, 2011

Arepas de Maiz Colombianas (Colombian old style Arepas)

The predecessor to the Arepa was a staple of the aboriginal tribes that inhabited the northern Andes of what today is Colombia and Venezuela. Arepas are to Colombians what Baguette is to French. They are eaten for breakfast, snack or as a side dish for grilled and fried meats, sausages, fried chicken, etc. They are normally cook over hot grills and topped butter and grated cheese. Also the cheese can be incorporated in the dough. In Colombia you will find fried arepas as well, like the Arepa de Huevo or the small ones served normally at the fried chicken restaurants like Kokoriko or Frisby. These are the traditional Arepas made by the grandmothers before the precooked cornmeal became so popular and the flavor speaks for itself. Once you tried a traditional Arepa made from broken corn kernels you won't go back to the precooked corn anymore.

Ingredients for 20  thin Arepas

3 cups white hominy ( dried broken corn kernels which the hull and germ have been removed )
8 cups water
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons soft butter
Fresh grated white farmers cheese.(mozzarella or double creme cheese work as fine)

Place the corn in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak and rehydrate for 24 hours. Change the water every 6 hours.

Drain the corn and discard the water. Place in a pressure cooker with 8 cups of water, seal and cook for about 25-30 minutes over high-medium heat. Remove from the stove and once the pressure has been release open the pot and let it cool. The corn must be very soft.

Pass the corn through a meat grinder or a cast iron grinder to a bowl. Add the butter and salt and knead for 4 minutes or until having a soft dough that does not stick to your hands.

Form orange size balls, and place one by one between two sheets of plastic and with a wood cutting board or a pot cover, flatten to your desired thickness. Normally from 1/8 to 1/2 inch. Cut using a small soup bowl pressing firmly over the plastic. You can also make thicker Arepas flattening the balls with your hands.

Cook the Arepas in a barbecue grill or using a wire  rack or parilla over the stove element (Parrillas to cook arepas are sold at latin stores) over medium heat. They must be golden brown and crunchy on both sides. You can cook them also in non stick pan, but they won't be as crunchy, besides the burnt spots add a delicious taste. Brush with butter and top grated cheese. Eat while still warm.