Arepas, Gorditas and Pupusas are all very similar. They are prepared with a corn based flour and stuffed with a variety of delicious fillings. Arepas are popular in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela where the fillings could range from a simple farmers cheese(queso blanco) to the very popular “reina pepiada”, a chicken and avocado salad. In Mexico, the gorditas are best when served up street style stuffed with chicharrones prensados en salsa. You could only imagine how hungry I am at this point! Lol! And the popular pupusa from El Salvador, stuffed with black beans and cheese served up with a mild red salsa and curtido(pickled cabbage). For today’s blog post, there are few ingredients, but the results are the most tasty and tender arepa I have ever prepared and tasted. I keep the dried maiz blanco(hominy) on hand most of the time. It’s so easy to prepare and I really enjoy adding it to my soup recipes including posole and menudo. The goal for me is just to eliminate as many processed foods, whether frozen, in a can or in a jar that I can from our daily meals. Don’t get me wrong, those products are good to have on hand for a quick meal now and then, but why not challenge yourself and prepare it from scratch, if you can. This recipe was inspired by two lovely ladies that are from Colombia. They are food bloggers and develop some of the most beautiful and delicious Colombian dishes I have ever seen. If you get a chance check out there blogs. Erica Dinho @My Colombian Recipes and Diana @Sweet y Salado.
Cheese Arepas with Fresh Ground Maiz Blanco (Hominy)
1 cup dried cut hominy/maiz blanco
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried cilantro or 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup cotija cheese
6 oz. Oaxaca, monterey jack or muenster cheese, shredded
Tips~ this maiz-hominy also comes in a yellow variety. a little goes a long way. When I cannot find posole maiz, I use this for my posole and menudo recipes.
Tips~ Rinse several times before you soak and after the maiz is fully cooked in cool water to remove excess starch from hominy.
1. Rinse the maiz blanco well to remove some of the starch. Cover with water and soak overnight.
2. Drain the maiz and cover generously with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until maiz is tender.
3. Drain and rinse well with cold water. Transfer to the food processor, add salt, pepper, garlic , cilantro and olive oil. Process until dough forms, using a spatula to push it down as needed in between processing. Add the cotija cheese and pulse a few times just until mixed in.
4. Transfer maiz dough to a bowl. Fill a small bowl with water. With wet hands, form 6 equal balls and press gently with the palms of your hands to form a 4 inch arepa cake. If you are filling the center with cheese, add 1 oz. to the center of the cake and form the dough around the cheese. Pat back into a cake form as best you can. Wet your hands as needed so dough does not stick. Transfer to a plate that is lined with wax paper. Add wax paper in between the layers of stacked arepas. Cover and let rest in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
5. Preheat a griddle, comal or a large skillet to medium heat for a few minutes. Add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Place arepas on hot surface and cook for 5 minutes per side, more or less. These will be alot softer than when you use the pre-cooked arepa corn flour.
Tips~ Just to test it out, next time I am going to try using the maiz blanco(hominy) in a can.
Tips~ If you wanted to leave them uncooked, wrap well in wax paper and store in an airtight container. Keep refrigerated until ready to cook. I have never tried deep frying them, but my friend Carolina from Venezuela, says it’s the bomb! LOl!
Tips~ Besides dried herbs, I may try adding some roasted garlic or sun dried tomatoes to the next batch. Tasty!!
Tips~ Let the cooked arepas cool completely before storing in an airtight container. I also separated them with wax paper. They reheat easily in a non stick pan with a little olive oil. It helps to put a lid on the pan while the arepa heats up. The steam created warms it through the middle and helps melt the cheese.
Tips~ I enjoyed these 6 arepas for the next 10 days. Typically for brunch stuffed with beans, avocado, egg or ham. Topped with salsa, of course.