I’ve been meaning to make Arepas forever, and when I saw an old Diner’s Drive In and Dives rerun featuring these I took it as a sign…can you hear the angels singing? Anyway, sign or not, angels or no, I’m glad I finally made these. With the soaring temperature’s we’ve been having (92 today, 102 tomorrow…and so on…) these look even better.
The combination of the still warm, fragrant Arepa and the cool, creamy, slightly tangy Chicken Avocado filling is indescribable. The filling, in Venezuela, is called Reina Pepiada, in honor of Susana Dujim, Miss World 1995. (Reina means “queen” in Spanish, and pepiadais, I understand, is perhaps most politely translated as “curvy.”)
Arepas, though, can be filled and stuffed with all manner of things, or served plain, maybe dragged through a salsa. I’ll definitely be trying more combinations. Now, I live in Minnesota and have never been lucky enough to have these made in someone’s home or place of business – if you’re familiar with these little beauties, please comment!
I do have to say the reason I put off making these initially is because in my mind making bread equals “time multiplied by mess” – these little arepas were so easy (and the dough so well behaved) that I had them formed in one bowl and had them in my cast iron skillet in literally minutes. It was like working with silly putty without the stretch…a child could make them, and in certain areas of the world, I’m sure many do.
The only trick here is to make sure you have the right type of corn flour – you want to use a precooked flour, masarepa or masa precocida. I found it in my grocery store, but if you don’t have it there, check a Latino market or the internet. I found it was a bit more expensive on the internet. Pan seems to be the preferred brand. Masa Harina (for tortillas or tamales) just isn’t the same thing, and as I researched recipes, a lot of people indicated it just won’t work properly.
I served my Arepas with my own interpretation of Aji Salsa. Since I don’t have the Aji peppers available in my area, I used a little Habanero instead. I gotta tell ya, I’ve fallen in love with this salsa – so much so that I ate the rest of mine with a spoon when I was finished with my Arepa!
The Arepas and filling were about $2.86 to make, the salsa, 1/2 recipe, about a dollar – plus I had leftover Arepas.
Arepas: makes about 8 arepas, depending on size.
- 3 cups precooked corn flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups very hot or boiling water (1/2 cup of this could be milk or buttermilk)
- 3 tablespoons oil (part can be melted butter)
- oil for skillet
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except the oil for the skillet. Don’t worry if this looks too wet, the cornmeal will absorb the water. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
The dough should be smooth and not stick to your hands. If it appears too dry, add a little water and knead it in, then let it rest another five minutes. If too wet, knead in a little additional flour and let rest.
Using your hands, form balls of dough out of about 1/2 cup of dough and press to form a cake about 4 inches wide and 3/4 inch tall. If the dough cracks at the edges, mix in a little more water and then form the cakes.
Heat the oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Sauté the patties, a few at a time, to form a light brown crust on one side, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side. Don’t cook these too fast or they won’t be done in the middle.
When all the patties have been browned, transfer them to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they sound lightly hollow when tapped. Serve immediately.
Chicken & Avocado Filling: Serves 4 with leftover arepas
- 2 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or use leftover chicken)
- 1/2 small onion, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ripe Hass avocado, pitted, peeled, and coarsely chopped
- scant 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 jalapeno seeded and minced (optional)
- 1/2 cup seeded and diced (1/4-inch) red bell pepper (optional)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
- 1 green onion, white and green parts, finely chopped
To make the filling, place the chicken breasts and onion in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Cool chicken in liquid. Roughly dice or shred.
In a bowl, add the chicken with the rest of ingredients together and mix (best done with clean hands.) You’ll want to “mush” the avocado and break the chicken up a little. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more vinegar to give the filling a pleasant, but not sour, tang. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Fill the still warm arepas with the cool, creamy filling and serve with salsa, if desired.
Money & Time Saving Strategies
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
- Chicken: I will always choose chicken on the bone over boneless skinless. I buy a lot of chicken breast when it’s 99 cents a pound. I’ll bring the chicken breasts home and break it down myself so that I have a number of packages of frozen boneless, skinless breasts in Ziplocs appropriate for a meal for the size of my family. I’ll then make Chicken Stock with the bones and my vegetable parings.) I usually use the white meat, less cholesterol, but be careful to not overcook. Cost $.75
- Avocados: Always on sale for $1.00 a piece here, sometimes we get lucky and they’ll be larger bags for less that aren’t too far gone (can you say guac?) Cost for this one: $1.00
- Green Onion: I try to buy on sale for about 50 cents a bunch, then put the tips in a jar of water in a sunny window to regrow. I only need to replenish every few months. Cost is so minimal that I don’t even count it.
- Jalapenos: They never really go on sale here, but they’re so small the cost was about 23 cent.
- Onion: Onions do go on sale now and then, but store really well. Even not on sale, a half an onion is about 10 cents.
- Red Onion: Cost is a little higher than a standard onion – I used part in this and part in the salsa – two tablespoons is about a penny. (Keep any that you don’t use in the door of your fridge and you’ll be less likely to forget it’s there.)
- Mayonaisse: Buy your condiments in the summer when there are coupons out there and big sales – I look for about a dollar for a 32 ounce jar (notice I said jar – the squeeze bottles generally cost the same and hold less, plus you can’t get all of it out.) Cost for 1/4 cup is about 13 cents.
- Corn Flour: I paid $1.89 for a bag – unfortunately it was measured in grams, but I think I’ve figured it pretty closely. The bag holds 1960 grams, and a cup is 104 grams. Using three cups works out to about 30 cents.
- Oil: As usual, I just used olive oil – cost about 32 cents.
- Red Pepper: I just omitted, as I’m using a salsa
- Vinegar: I pick up a jug of white vinegar around Easter – often with a coupon, and often on an unadvertised sale. It keeps forever and is dirt cheap. The better vinegars are often on sale at Easter, and on sale with coupons sporadically through the summer. Cost nominal.
- Nutrition for Arepa: Cal 193 cal from fat 51, 26%; fat 5.9g; sat fat .98g; chol .63mg; sod 180.95; tot carb 32.65; fib 2.74g; sug .69g; prot 3.98g
- Nutrition for Filling: (1/4) Cal 215.93; cal flr fat 113.78 58%; tot fat 13.2g; chol 40.37mg; sod 143.99mg; tot carb 10.6g; fib 3.8g; sug 2.38g; prot 14.89g
Put Your own Spin on It:
- The filling is just an avocado chicken salad – no reason you couldn’t add almost anything you’d like – a little jalapeno for heat, maybe? The recipe I found used red bell pepper, but I’m guessing that a red aji dulce pepper would be the more authentic version.
- I think this is a great use for leftover chicken.
- I imagine that any number of salads or “salsa” with mangoes, pineapple and such would be wonderful with these little arepas.
- Of course, there are many arepa fillings to choose from – I’ll be trying a black bean filling next.
I can’t wait to try these Arepas: Arepas with Black Beans and Avocado Salsa from Sara’s Kitchen.
Recipe made June 2012