Friday, August 20, 2010

Arapas Con Philadelphia Queso

I ate my first Arapas while visiting my "South American Sister", Anastasia in Caracas Venezuela.  My mother and I were there to celebrate her wedding to her one true love, Marcelo.

Arapas Con Philadelphia Queso

We were busy each day with pre-wedding details but spent each night out on the town looking for a band for the wedding.  Anastasia had booked a band but they had cancelled at the last minute.  We only had three days left before the wedding and Ana was a bit frazzled about finding a good band. I on the other hand, was having the time of my life!   Together with her brother and fiance we made our way through downtown Caracas searching for the allusive "perfect wedding band".  Up every night until 4 am, I learned how to salsa dance, drank some of the finest champagne in the world then drank some really strong coffee to counteract the champagne.  We also gorged ourselves on Arapas.

Arapas are small corn cakes sold in Venezuelan restaurants called areperías.   Areperías can be found all over the city making it a convenient way to satisfy our hunger while running wedding errands.

Arepas are a staple food in both Venezuela and Colombia. They are corn cakes, made from a special precooked corn flour. You can find this flour in local supermarkets and Latin food stores, labeled masarepa, or masa al instante or PAN. Traditionally, these simple, satisfying corn cakes are delicious with butter or cream cheese for breakfast, stuffed with all manner of fillings like a sandwich or as an accompaniment to any meal.  Colombian arepas tend to be thinner than Venezuelan ones. Arepas can also be grilled or deep-fried.

My version of Arapas incorporates Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese for my third entry in the Real Women Of Philadelphia Cooking Contest.  The weeks challenge is to make an international side dish, anything goes.

The cornmeal used to make arepas is a special, precooked type that usually goes by the name masarepa, masa precocida or PAN. It can often be found in Latino markets. The more commonly found masa harina is not the correct type to use for this recipe

I had a lot of peaches left over from when I canned my Peach Butter so I made Peach Salsa to accompany this dish.  It's sweet and spicy flavors mixed with the crisp browned arapas and creamy cheeses... a perfect match!

Arapas Con Philadelphia Queso

2-3/4 cups boiling water
2 cups PAN cornflour
3 ounces regular Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese
4-5 tablespoons Philadelphia brand Cream Cheese, Chive and Onion flavor
1/2 12 ounce cube of Queso Fresco crumbled
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup Peach Salsa

1. Preheat oven to Broil. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, salt and 3 ounces plain Cream Cheese. Pour in 2 1/2  cups of the boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon to form a mass. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Using wet hands, form one large ball of dough out of about 1/2 cup of dough and press to form a cake about 4 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick. If the dough cracks at the edges, mix in a little more of the boiling water and then form the cakes.

3.  Heat the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté one pattie for 3-4 minutes or until crisp but not totally browned and flip over, place another pattie of the same size on the skillet and cook using the same method. 

4.  While second patties is cooking dot the top of the first pattie with 4 tablespoons Philadelphia Brand Chive and Onion Cream Cheese and crumble 3 tablespoon Queso Fresco on top, using a spatula slide the second pattie onto the first, crisp side down facing toward the cheeses, cook for another 3 minutes.  Flip "both" patties over to cook remaining raw side to form a light brown crust, 5 to 6 minutes.

5.  Place 2 tablespoons crumbled Queso Fresco on top of Arapas and place under the broier until the cheese melts. 

6.  Cut arapas in half or fourths and serve immediately with Peach Salsa.

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