Hi All! Today I want to share a little story with you. So back in May, Teri and I went on a little trip to New York, for business, with plenty of awesome food and drinks along the way, obvi. We had a great time, explored as much of the city as we possibly could, thanks to Teri who is a GENIOUS (not quite sure if that’s the right word to use, but it seems appropriate enough) when it comes to navigating. She would just whip out her iphone, pull up a map, point in the direction we needed to walk towards, and I would trail behind her knowing very well that I am completely technologically and navigationally challenged and would probably never leave the hotel if it weren’t for her…no really. The only time we got lost for a hot sec when we asked a local for subway directions and she sent us going the wrong way.
Anyways, here’s the thing about work trips, and Teri and I…in our minds work trips are work trips and when they’re over we would love nothing more than to hop on a plane and get home asap…if we could teleport, we would totally choose that option. Don’t get me wrong, we really did make the most of our trip to New York, outside of work stuff, but when it was time to go home all we could think about was, well…going home! Plus, while we loved NY we were also absolutely EXHAUSTED.
So on that fateful day we woke up ready to go home when we started thinking…checkout is at 11am…our flight is at 9pm… “Wait, what are we going to do for 10 hours?! Why did we book our flight like this?! NO!” After a number of unsuccessful attempts at switching our tickets to earlier flights, we sadly packed our things, checked out and just started walking and walking and walking. It was at this point that we sort of felt like doing a little Tobias Funke shower cry. We finally decided the only thing that could possibly make this long day bearable was arepas from Caracas. We headed straight there for a little bit of salvation.
We had been to Caracas a couple nights ago where they serve these magical little pockets of deliciousness called arepas. They’re pretty much small white corncakes that are light and crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. You split them open like a pita and stuff with all sorts of awesomeness like shredded beef, marinated chunks of chicken, roasted pork shoulder, even tofu; plus they are served with guasacaca, Venezuela’s version of guacamole. We sat down, ordered, got our food and suddenly things weren’t so bad anymore. Sure, we had the rest of the day to get through, but being able to sit for a little while and stuff our faces with arepas really made us feel better, well at least a little bit. That is until our 4 hr cab ride through gridlock traffic, to the airport, good times.
Moral of the story? When you’re having a terrible day, go and get or make yourself an arepa and everything will be A-OK ….well maybe not, but they’re really good and you’ll be so glad you made them.
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Arepas Filled with Carnitas and Guasacaca
- 2 cups harina PAN (pre-cooked cornmeal)
- 2 ½ cups hot water
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing and cooking
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and quartered
- ½ small sweet onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 serranos, halved and seeded
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 bunch cilantro, stemmed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 cups carnitas, shredded
- ½ cup cotija cheese, crumbled
- Place the PAN, water, oil, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir until the mixture just comes together.
- Cover with a damp towel and allow to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
- After the dough has rested, mix it with your hands to remove any lumps.
- Taking a small amount (about ⅓ cup) of the dough, form a flat and round disc, even in thickness.
- Brush each side of the disc with a small amount of vegetable oil and place onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Place a cast iron skillet (or some sort of heavy bottom skillet) over medium-high heat and brush with a small amount of vegetable oil.
- Once the skillet is hot, place a few arepas onto the surface, making sure not to overcrowd, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown on each side and make a hollow sound when lightly tapped (turn the heat down to medium if the pan gets too hot).
- Remove them from the heat and repeat with the remaining discs (you can store the cooked arepas, on a prepared sheet pan, in a warm oven while you cook the remaining batches).
- For the guasacaca: Place the avocado, onion, garlic, serranos, vinegar, and lime juice into a blender and blender until smooth. Add the cilantro, salt and oil and continue to blend until smooth. Season with more salt and pepper.
- To assemble: Open the arepas down the side to create pocket.
- Open the pocket and fill with ½ cup of carnitas and top with a generous drizzle of guasacaca and a sprinkle of cotija. Repeat with the remaining arepas and serve.