I was scolded, and rightly so, for not sharing a recipe for arepas with my last post, but fear not and continue reading!
These are one of the easiest things you can make; they’re so warm and comforting and just yum. I hadn’t had them in about two years because I am a slacker who didn’t want to hunt down the proper corn meal, and then, lo, it was in my regular market, so! All signs pointed to arepas!
It’s pre-cooked corn meal, so I’m not sure if you can easily substitute an easier found corn meal…maybe someone out there will have some wisdom as to this, but this is what I was taught to use and I haven’t explored other methods of corn cakery.
And, I start with the recipe on the package, usually cutting it in half. So, this is half, which makes about 14 cakes:
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup pre-cooked corn meal
I use slightly warm water, though it doesn’t specify that at all. Put your water in a good sized bowl, and sprinkle in the salt. You can whisk your salt around to dissolve it if you want, but you can also just let it be. I use kosher salt, because I really dislike table salt. Just don’t forget the salt, because much like making bread, salt will absolutely bring your flour/meal to proper life and make it magical.
Add your corn meal, and stir until the water is absorbed. You can use your hands, you can use a silicon spatula, you can use a spoon! Whatever’s easiest. When done, it’s going to look like Cream of Wheat.
To this base, you can add…well, pretty much anything. I added some cilantro, finely chopped sweet onion, finely grated Jack cheese, and a little bit of cumin. When C. taught me to make these, she added ham. Whatever you add, do it to your taste. You don’t even have to add anything, if you just want a simple, plain corn cake. But with cheese in there…oh good gracious, it gets all melty and makes for a happy mouth.
Whatever you add, I’d also suggest you cut everything pretty fine so you aren’t stumbling over huge chunks as you nom. Once you have your add ins in, form the dough into balls. These can be sized however you like. I seem to end up with a 1.5″ ball usually. If you make them larger, apparently the thing to do after cooking them is to slice them in half and fill them with meat and cheese as a sandwich, and while I have had them this way, I much prefer the cake on its own.
Heat a small skillet over medium to medium high heat, and drizzle olive oil into it. You don’t want your oil to smoke — I often end up with one round of cakes that are a bit burned (though this time I was more careful!). I fry mine in small batches, three cakes at a time, flipping them around until they are as brown as I like. I keep them warm in the oven while I fry up the rest. If you don’t want to fry all of your dough at once, I’m going to guess it will keep just fine in its bowl, with plastic wrap pressed down against it. I usually just fry it all at once.
And seriously, that’s it. You can serve them with whatever you like, depending on how you’ve seasoned them; sour cream, jalapeno, olives, green onions, salsa? With these, I had a fabulous tomatillo-serrano salsa and that was it, because simple is good.
And these are so very good. I hope you make them and let me know what you think!