Latin Grill: Sultry and Simple Food for Red-Hot Dinners and Parties by Rafael Palomino, includes recipes like Grilled Sweet Plantains, Abuelita Style; Grilled Arepas with Farmer's Cheese (or Queso Blanco); and Grilled Chorizo (Colombian Sausage with Ají Rojo).
It's not only nostalgia that makes me love arepas; it's also their versatility! These corncakes are hugely popular in many forms in my native Colombia and neighboring Venezuela (among other places) and have now actually caught on in many parts of the United States. What makes them especially wonderful is that they offer cooks fabulous flexibility as far as preparation. So here I'm giving you my basic recipe—and a serving suggestion—but please know you can add whatever you'd like (grilled corn, diced peppers, different cheeses, just to name a few possibilities).
Here I'm suggesting that you smear a bit of farmer's cheese—or Mexican queso blanco—on top. Great as an appetizer, these arepas are perfect with any cocktail!
In a blender, process the corn kernels and chicken stock until smooth. Pour the cornmeal into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and sour cream. Pour in the chicken stock and corn mixture while stirring with your hands or a wooden spoon. Add the grated cheese. Form mixture into a ball. Then separate into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten into a pancake about 1/4-inch thick and 2 inches in diameter (but rub your fingers around the edge so that it maintains its thickness). At this point you can cover the arepas with a damp kitchen towel and refrigerate them for up to 1 day before grilling.
Light a fire in a charcoal or gas grill. Brush the arepas lightly with the melted butter (for flavor and to prevent sticking). Grill the arepas until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. They should be toasted on the outside, but soft in the middle. Let cool to room temperature. Before serving, top with a spread of the farmer's cheese.
Note: Instant cornmeal, used to make arepas, is called masa al instante, harina precocida or masarepa in Spanish. It can be found in large supermarkets, Latin groceries, and online. The most common brand seems to be Goya, and it comes in both white and yellow varieties.
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This page created July 2010
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