These tasty cornmeal cakes can be found grilled, fried, or baked in several Latin American countries. The outside fries up crisp and golden and the cheesy middle stays soft and delicious and goopy moist. You can fry them in butter rather than oil if you want them extra tasty. This is a delicious Colombian version that I have adapted and added seasonings to. They can be prepared savory with cheese and herbs/spices, as in this recipe, or sweet with a little sugar mixed in to the dough. They can be eaten for breakfast, as a side dish, or with added sugar for a sweet snack. They can also be split while hot and stuffed with any kind of filling.
Yields: Makes 10 to 12 cornmeal cakes.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
1 cup Arepa flour. (Not to be confused with masa harina! Arepa flour is precooked, very finely ground cornmeal. Popular brands are “PAN Pre-cooked white cornmeal,” or “DonArepa” or, package will say “Harina pre-cocida masa.”)
2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup +2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup butter (6 to 8 pats butter) =OR= 1/4 cup oil
2 heaping tablespoons Sabsi Dolma herb blend (Optional. Or add your favorite herbs.)
Mix together arepa flour, cheese, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then stir in water until well mixed. Let stand until enough water is absorbed for a soft dough to form, 1 to 2 minutes. Dough will continue to stiffen.
Form three level tablespoons dough into a ball the size of a golf ball, and flatten between your palms, gently pressing to form a 1/4 inch thick patty that is about two and half to 3 inches wide, then gently smooth it around in the sides to eliminate cracks. Make all of the patties at once, rather than as you fry them. Put them on a clean plate in a single layer or on a wax-paper lined surface. Form more patties with remaining dough in the same way.
Heat butter (or oil if you are using that instead) in a large cast iron frying pan or skillet over medium high heat until it simmers. Then fry the arepas in two batches, turning over once until deep golden on the edges, 8 to 10 minutes total per batch. Drain on paper towels, or if you are frying in butter put them directly on your plate!
Eat while hot: They are delicious and tasty hot, and not as good cold.