Venezuelan Lunch

It has been twelve years since I last was in Venezuela, meaning it has been twelve years of longing for true authentic Venezuelan cuisine. Luckily, since realizing I can in fact cook real food in the kitchen, I have tried giving Venezuelan food a shot! Early in September, I decided I wanted to make some pollo mechado (and for those of you who do not speak Spanish that is shredded chicken), now one cannot just make pollo mechado without something to put it in. So I went about making arepas to stuff with this delicious chicken dish. Arepas are a typical Venezuelan corncake made with corn flour. This corncake is known all through Latin America, but is most common in Venezuela and Colombia. Not only are arepas eaten with a meat product, but they are most commonly had with queso blanco (white cheese). It is just unfortunate that queso blanco cannot be found in the Netherlands which I then use mozzarella as my substitute of choice.

Below you can see the photo from the first meal that I made:

For today’s lunch though, I used a different recipe for the arepas which I had been craving for all week long. Also, instead of making pollo mechado with them, I just served the corn cakes with mozzarella slices. My mother was lucky enough to have had a chili soup with beef and pork to enjoy with the arepas balancing out her meal. She is lucky to have a friend who will feed her red meat products, because I will not dare touch that stuff. So, like I said: lucky her.

Honestly, for today’s recipe I just went to the popular website of about.com and found Venezuelan-Style arepas. It was just a normal lowscale recipe that I made pretty quickly. However when I made the recipe I had to tweak it some. I don’t think any of the recipes that I follow tend to be done perfectly to a T. Oh well. This is the recipe that I followed:

  • 3 cups corn flour
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF or 176ºC.

  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients well, until smooth. Don’t worry if the mixture appears wet. Let mixture rest for about 5-10 minutes, to give the cornmeal time to absorb some of the liquid.

  3. The dough should be smooth and easy to handle, without sticking to your hands. If the dough seems dry, you can add a little bit more water. Knead the dough for several minutes and let rest again for 5 minutes. Or if the dough is too wet to handle, add a small amount of corn flour, knead, and let the dough rest for 5 minutes more.

  4. Take pieces of the dough and shape them with your hands into round disks, about 2 cm thick, and 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter. When shaping the arepas, repair any cracks along the edges with your fingers.

  5. Lightly grease the surface of a heavy skillet (cast iron works well) with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. Place the arepas into the skillet in batches. Cook until the arepas are lightly browned on each side. Place arepas in the oven for about 8-10 minutes to finish cooking the inside of the arepas without burning them).

  6. Serve warm.

If you are to put slices of mozzarella inside of your arepas, I would suggest you wait some time for the arepas to cool down because as you know mozza is a very liquidy cheese, so once melting in heat a lot of liquid is produced.  Unless you want your arepa to be on the soggy side, waiting a couple minutes for the corn cake to cool is a good idea.

This is the end product for today’s lunch:

Arepas con Mozza

I placed the arepas on such a weird plate that we own. Don’t mind the set of legs you see beneath the misshaped circular cakes.

If any of you decide to try out my favourite Venezuelan dish, please let me know how you do. I am always interested in hearing about others experiences with foods that I was raised on!

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