The first time I tasted arepas, I was sitting on the plastic-covered sofa of a Colombian woman who, though I didn’t know it, would later become a good friend, and more recently, the madrina of my youngest son.
Like many things my friend gave me in those early days, I had no idea what I was eating – neither the name of it, or what it was made of. One time I asked her what was in a delicious meat and rice dish she served me. She told me pig’s feet, and that’s how I learned not to ask so many questions.
It was only this past year that I remembered my love for arepas and decided to make them myself. If you can track down a bag of the special corn meal, the rest is easy. Made from simple ingredients including water, salt, and cheese, and cooked in butter – these are instant comfort food whether you were raised eating them as a child or not. I decided that the flavor is reminiscent of grilled cheese sandwiches, and maybe that’s why I love them so much.
There are different varieties of arepas and just as many different ways to eat them, but here is mine.
*2 cups Masarepa (pre-cooked yellow corn meal/harina de maíz amarilla precocida)
*3 cups warm water
*1 pinch of salt
*1 cup of cheese (I use shredded mozzarella, but you can use a more authentic Latin American cheese)
*3 tablespoons of butter (for frying)
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Let sit for 2 minutes until consistency thickens. Add cheese and mix until combined. Shape into patties and fry in butter over medium heat until browned on both sides. Serve.