If you read my last post, Arepas, Take Two!, you will know that I’m feeling a little obsessed over these things. Since making them, I have been wanting to try another version. Several lifetimes ago, I waited tables in a French restaurant in St. Louis: Bernard’s Bar & Bistro.
The chef, Bernard, used to make fried polenta as a side dish for some of his meals. One time, in the kitchen, our manager Susan was having some as a snack, with raspberry jam. I remember thinking that it was a terrible idea, but one bite and I was sold. Polenta, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, ever so slightly salty, with a dollop of raspberry jam on top was just about the best thing I had ever had in my life.
Now here I am, having fun with Arepas, and knowing that I can come pretty close to that experience from so many years ago. Making them is pretty much exactly the same as making the other arepas, with just a few minor tweaks. Instead of the Mexican cheese blend, I used Queso Fresco, which you can find at your local Mexican grocery store. And I fried them in unsalted butter. That’s it! They make a wonderful after school snack, especially at my house, because my kids aren’t convinced this combination is a good idea, so I get to eat almost all of them myself. Relax. I halved the recipe. You can still make them this way for a savory snack or breakfast side, by the way. These are the ingredients you’ll need, plus a good raspberry jam (I like the raspberry jam from Trader Joe’s. It’s SO good.), and maybe even some plain yogurt.
Arepas con Queso Fresco
- 1 cup Precooked Yellow Cornmeal flour (Masarepa or P.A.N.)
- 1 tiny pinch salt
- 3/4 cup shredded Queso Fresco
- 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water
- Unsalted butter for the pan
Mix the first three ingredients in a glass bowl, then add the water, mixing with your fingers until there are no cornmeal lumps. Let the cornmeal rest for about 5 minutes to allow the cornmeal to set. It will feel wet, and that’s okay.
Put a goodly amount (1 Tablespoon?) of butter in a skillet over medium heat.
When skillet is hot and butter is sizzling, make golf-ball sized balls of dough, flatten them in the palm of your hand to about 1/2 inch, and fry them in the unsalted butter, about 5 minutes on the first side, and about 5 minutes more on the second side.
Makes about 8 arepas.
Enjoy with raspberry (or strawberry) jam. And maybe a dollop of plain yogurt.