Is it just me, or do foreign foods always sound more intimidating to make than traditional American dishes? I mean, I make bread all the damn time, but because they have a fancy name and a South American origin, I always imagined arepas to be a challenge. Well, color me disillusioned when I found out that the things really only have four ingredients – arepa flour, salt, water, and cheese. There’s not even any yeast to mess with, being that it’s a flatbread and all, and the instructions literally read something like “dump everything in a bowl, mix, form into patties, fry.” If only I had known sooner!!
See, I didn’t even know arepas existed until fairly recently – call discoveries like this part of my “food awakening.” But one day (the man, the myth, the legend) Bobby Flay did an episode of his (cheesy, but oddly riveting) show “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” with the arepa ladies, and I was fascinated. Apparently, these were a well-known, much-appreciated phenomenon in NYC (or so Bobby led me to believe), and though I’d grown up going into the city often, I had never seen hide nor tail of an arepa. So I let Bobby and the ladies explain them to me while I pined for one from my couch. Imagine my delight when, during my next NYC outing, I came face-to-face with several arepa stands!
Apparently, though, an arepa is like any other street food, and if you don’t know which vendors have the good stuff, you shouldn’t just buy from anyone (sounded a little like I was talking about a drug deal there). And while the arepa I enjoyed that day in the city was decent, I knew – because Bobby had shown me the light – that they could be better. Rather than just a mozzarella cheese filling, I knew there could, and should, be other options. Options that highlighted the deliciously crisp patty, options that made the sandwich melt in your mouth and come alive. But alas, I had no such arepa, and, believing that they were a complex undertaking, resigned myself to never experiencing arepa bliss.
BUT HOLD THE PHONE: while indulging in my favorite hobby several weeks ago (you know, reading old Gourmet magazines), I came across a recipe for arepas. And it was really short. Here’s the thing about me and new recipes: if I think the topic of the recipe is daunting, the shorter the recipe is, the more likely I am to try it. I’ll make a 3-page-long bread recipe or complete a 57-step cookie procedure, but if I don’t really know if I’m capable of making something happen, the rule of thumb is: the shorter the recipe, the better your chances. So I ripped out the little blurb, placed it on my desk, went to bed, and forgot about it. For weeks.
Then, I got a stupid idea. I mean really, really, what-the-hell-were-you-thinking kind of stupid. I decided to sign up for NaBloPoMo. See? Stupid, Katie. When do you imagine you’re going to have time for this? You work 50+ hours a week. Sometimes you go to the gym. Sometimes you have friends that you like to go out with. You really like sleeping and/or laying on the couch for hours watching football and/or talking to Boyfriend. YOUR DAYS ARE JAM-PACKED. But there I was, committed, and wondering how I was going to come up with 30 days worth of content. So, I give you: STALLING as well as MILKING IT!! Yay! You’ll be lucky enough to get the arepa recipe today, but as for what I put inside? For that, you’ll have to tune in tomorrow. Suffice it to say, it’s worth the wait.
Makes 2 arepas
1/2 cup arepa flour
3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp parmesan cheese, grated
Pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp butter
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, water, cheese and salt together. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
Heat a saucepan/griddle over medium-high heat, and melt the butter in the pan.
Form the dough into 2 balls, then flatten each until they’re about the size of an English muffin (What? It’s a good measurement!). Lay both patties in the pan once the butter is fully melted, and cook on one side until golden (5 or so minutes) – they’ll be sizzling. Once the underside is golden brown, flip and cook until the other side is golden. When they’re done, they should sound hollow when thumped.
I chose to cut mine in half, then place both halves, cut-side down, back in the pan to make them extra crispy. I think it was a wonderful choice, but, to each his own.
Stuff with cheese, or filling of your choice, or come back tomorrow to see the filling of my choice 🙂