A traditional food of Colombia and Venezuela, arepas are a corn patty similar to a tortilla in shape but made with pre-cooked white cornmeal. Each country makes them in their own way, and even within each country there are variations. The part of Colombia that my mom is from is known to make their arepas with shredded white cheese mixed into the dough and that is the way I grew up eating them. Crisp on the outside, soft yummy goodness on the inside!
Arepas are usually served at breakfast with eggs and cup of cafe con leche (coffee and milk) or hot chocolate. For a hearty meal, they can be stuffed with more cheese, meats like ham or grilled steak or served with beans on the side. This weekend my mother-in-law (an arepa-making Nicaraguan) tried making a few without cheese for my husband and I. They turned out great! I felt the comforting embrace of a traditional breakfast minus the dairy. With my coffee and vanilla soy, delicious!
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pre-cooked white cornmeal, such as P.A.N. or Goya brand Masarepa
Pour water into a large bowl and add salt, stir to combine. Add half of the cornmeal and stir immediately to avoid lumps. Mix in the remaining cornmeal with your hands and lightly knead until it comes together into a soft dough. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough evenly into 4-6 portions. With lightly moistened hands, roll each portion into a ball and flatten using the palms of your hands to about 1/2" thick or less (however you prefer). As you flatten the dough, smooth out the edges with your fingertips.
Lightly grease a cast iron griddle or skillet set on medium to medium-high using a paper towel moistened with vegetable oil. Place arepas on griddle and cook for 6-8 minutes on each side, careful not to burn. Arepas should be light golden brown and crispy on the outside, soft in the center. A little bit of charring is ok.
Arepas should be eaten soon after they are made. If you let them sit out for more than an hour they will get hard. If this happens you can revive them on the griddle or in a toaster oven.
Prepared dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.