Grilled Cheese Please!: 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes by Laura Werlin includes sandwich recipes like French Mountain Glory; Arepas with Monterey Jack, Plantains, and Black Beans; and Mozzarella with Crispy Prosciutto and Broccoli Rabe.
Makes 4 sandwiches
The filled corn flour dough "sandwiches" known as arepas are found in many Central and South American countries, although each country has its own version. While making arepas takes a little more time than making a typical grilled cheese sandwich, once you learn to make them you'll learn how easy they really are. You can find arepa flour, usually marketed as precooked (or precocida) corn flour, in most Latin American markets. If all else fails, use English muffins.
To make the arepas: Mix together the flour, cheese, corn, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Slowly add the water and stir until the mixture is moist and holds together. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. This will allow the flour to absorb the liquid. If it seems dry, add water a few drops at a time.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten into a disk measuring approximately 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick.
To cook the arepas, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Line a plate with paper towels. Add the arepas to the skillet and cook without disturbing for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cakes are deep golden brown and splotchy on the bottom. Turn and cook the other sides, also until deep golden brown and splotchy. Transfer to the plate to drain. Wipe
To make the plantains: Heat the butter and oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Line a plate with paper towels. Add the plantain slices to the skillet and cook until caramelized and golden brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Salt very lightly and transfer to the plate to cool. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel but do not wash it.
To make the beans: Heat the vegetable oil in the same skillet you used to make the plantains. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, cumin, salt, and pepper and cook until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and use the back of a fork to mash the beans. This will help the beans stay on the arepas instead of falling out when you flip them.
To assemble: Use a serrated knife and carefully cut each arepa in half horizontally. Place 4 arepa halves, cut side up, on your work surface. Place about 2 tablespoons of the black bean mixture on the arepas. Follow with a few plantain slices. Distribute the cheese over the top. You may have to use your palms to compress the cheese to make it fit. (Don't worry if some of the cheese strands fall by the wayside.) Top with the remaining arepa halves, cut side down.
For stovetop method: Heat the same skillet you used to make the arepas over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Place the filled arepas in the pan, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese has begun to melt and the bottoms are a deep golden brown. Carefully turn, cover, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the cheese has completely melted. (You might need to peek inside to make sure.) Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Cut in half or serve whole. (Depending on your arepas, these can be a little messy. As a result, you might want to serve them with a knife and fork just to be sure.)
For sandwich maker method: These cannot be made in a sandwich maker because the arepas are too delicate to withstand the weight of the top of the griddle.
Note: One of the great things about arepas is how versatile they are. You can fill them with pulled pork, chicken or grilled flank steak, a little cheese, and a drizzle of Mexican crema or crème fraîche. Or you can forget the meat and fill them with one or two cheeses, a little cilantro and onion, and a sprinkling of chopped black olives. No matter what, you're in for one great sandwich, Latin American style.
This page created May 2011
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