You know what arepas are, right? No? Oh, good! Neither did I until this summer (and neither, apparently, does spell check).
This summer, a friend of mine mentioned a new local Venezuelan restaurant that served $6 arepas on Wednesdays, and even though I had no idea what an arepa was, spending $6 on a nice sit-down dinner with friends sounded just fine.
When Arepa Time arrived, I discovered that the arepa meal was much like a standard American “barbecue” sandwich with pulled, seasoned meat. Only, instead of being served on a Kaiser roll or other hearty bread, the meat was wedged between two arepas, which are kind of like English muffins made with a special kind of cornmeal. And the delicious seasoned beef inside my arepa was topped with smoked gouda and avocado.
I knew right then that this was a meal I needed in my future.
Unfortunately, the whole reason we were getting together with friends that Wednesday was to say goodbye because we were moving far away. Far away from good friends and from this newly discovered treat.
I would just have to learn how to make beef arepas on my own. This has proved much easier than making new friends. I was astonished at how simple it is to make arepas at home, and how deliciously soft and buttery they were. The beef roasts for 3-4 hours in a Dutch oven, but once you’ve browned it, you hardly have to think about it again. And the arepas themselves are easier to make than most bread! I am hoping to make this delicious Venezuelan cornbread for some new friends in our new locale soon, but this savory, buttery meal will continue to remind me of the last evening we shared with these friends in our old neighborhood.
- 2 pounds boneless rump roast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 teaspoons each salt and black pepper
- 2 teaspoons each: garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
- Quarter of a yellow onion, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lime, juiced
- ¼ cup salsa
- 1 beef bullion cube
- 2 cups water
- 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 cups pre-cooked white cornmeal (such as P.A.N. - only use pre-cooked!)
- Sliced avocado
- Shredded gouda cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat a heavy-duty Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil.
- In a bowl, mix spices and divide put half of the mixture into another bowl and reserve. Rub the remaining mixture into the roast.
- Brown the roast on all sides. Remove from heat.
- Add bell peppers, onion, garlic, bay leaves, lime juice, salsa, bullion, water and remaining half of spices.
- Transfer to oven. Roast 3 to 4 hours until the meat is tender and easy to pull apart with a fork.
- Reduce oven heat to 350°F.
- In a bowl, mix water, salt and oil. Add cornmeal slowly until the mixture feels like clay (but a little wetter and mealier).
- Round the dough into balls (tennis ball size). Flatten to the size of an English muffin. If the edges crack, the dough is too dry.
- Fry on a cast iron pan or other oven-safe pan over medium heat.
- When the bottoms are crisp and golden brown, flip them. Repeat.
- Bake in oven for 15 minutes, and then slice and butter them and fill them with seasoned beef and desired toppings.