Monday, July 21, 2014

Colombian Cheese-stuffed Arepas


I miss all the arepas we had when we visited my mother's family in Colombia.  That was nearly 20 years ago, so it is high time that I learned to make my own.  I used to have a very simple recipe that called for slapping the shaped arepas onto the oven rack to cook, but I've lost it.  Most recipes instruct you to fry the arepas in a pan, which I find tedious.  I converted this recipe to a broiler operation, which means it should also work well on an outdoor grill.  Serve with fruit and soup for a simple dinner.

Colombian Cheese-stuffed Arepas
Adapted from Seriouseats.com
Makes 4 large

2 cups masarepa (Goya or P.A.N. are popular brands) (not the same as masa harina)
1/2 cup finely crumbled queso fresco (or substitute ricotta salata or feta cheese)
2 cups water, plus more as necessary
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt
1/2 pound mozzarella or other good melting cheese, sliced or grated
2 teaspoons butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with rack 4-5" from the top heating element.

Combine masarepa, crumbled cheese, water, and vegetable oil in a medium bowl and knead with hands until a dough is formed. Take a meatball-sized amount and flatten it between your palms. If the edges crack, knead in more water a tablespoon at a time until dough is supple and smooth but not sticky. Season dough to taste with salt, then cover and set aside for five minutes.

Divide dough into eight equal pieces and roll into balls. Working on a wooden cutting board or a regular cutting board with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top of it, flatten each ball down to a disk about 5-inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick.

Place grated mozzarella cheese into center of one disk, leaving a 1/2-inch gap all around.

Place a second disk on top and carefully seal the edges all around, trying to remove as much air from the center as possible.  Use one hand to shape the edges of the arepa so that it is an even round disk.  Repeat to make 4 stuffed arepas

Transfer the arepas to a foil-lined cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Spray the top of each arepa with oil.

Set oven to low broil and cook the arepas for 7-8 minutes per side.  Flip each arepa over when the tops look golden.  Alternatively, these can be made on the grill.  Serve hot.

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