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Arepas de Queso

Arepas are flatbread made from precooked ground cornmeal dough. This flatbread is predominately eaten in Colombia and Venezuela. Various sizes, maize types, and added ingredients are used to vary its preparation. It is similar in shape to the Mexican gordita and the Salvadoran pupusa. Arepas can also be found in Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Canary Islands.

I developed this recipe as the perfect companion to accompany eight-hour smoked pork shoulder, with it’s gooey molten cheese center and pillowy, toasted top. These arepas are a versatile bread that are simple to prepare; rendered pork fat and pork stock reinforces that this is a vessel for pork umami. When it comes to smoking large cuts of meat like pork butt, I typically aim for 6-10 hours at 225-240 degrees to achieve moist yet tender pull-able pork.

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Arepas de Queso with Pulled Pork and Cumin-Pickled Red Onions

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 5-7 hor d’oeuvres sized portions
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups masarepa cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 tablespoons cold rendered pork fat
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cold pork stock or (chicken stock)
  • 1 cup of grated fontina cheese
  • 1/4 cup Manchego cheese
  • Vegetable oil or butter for cooking
  • 1.5lbs cooked pulled pork or meat of your choice
Garnishes 
  • Cumin pickled red onions
  • Sliced green onions
  • Bbq sauce
Equipment 
  • Large bowl
  • Fork or pastry cutter
  • Box grater
  • Dry and liquid measuring cups
  • Fish spatula
  • Griddle or nonstick skillet

Instructions

Arepas Dough
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, butter, and pork fat. To start, cut the cold fats into cornmeal until incorporated. Next, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 1/2 cups of stock.
  3. Gradually pour stock into cornmeal while mixing and mix until dough ball is formed. Texture should resemble mash potatoes.
  4. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. During this time the dough will absorb added liquids. If the dough is too dry, add up to 3 tablespoons of water or stock.
  5. Pre-heat griddle or nonstick skillet with a teaspoon of butter or oil.
  6. Combine both cheeses in a small bowl.
  7. To form the arepas: shape 2-ounce scoops of dough into smooth, round balls. Create a cavity in the center of each ball, insert 1 tablespoon of grated cheese, then flatten each dough ball into a circle half an inch to a full inch thick.
  8. Place shaped dough on preheated griddle, cook until slightly brown (think English muffin) for 3-4 minutes on each side.
  9. Finish thicker arepas in a 350º oven on a sheet pan for 12- 15 minutes.
  10. Slice hot arepas horizontally. Top with bbq sauce, pulled pork or meat of choice, green onions, and pickled onions (recipe below).
Pickled Onions
Ingredients

1 small red onion
4g Black pepper, whole
4g cumin seed, whole
400g water
400g rice wine vinegar
80g rice syrup
20g salt

Instructions
  1. Thinly slice onion and transfer to heat-proof bowl.
  2. In a small sauce pan toast spices until fragrant (1 minute)
  3. Add remaining ingredients bring to simmer, remove from heat and pour over onions.
  4. Cool and store in air tight container for up to 2 months.
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