Mastering Venezuelan Arepas in Seattle
You know when you meet someone and think, “I really like this person. I hope we become friends”? That’s how I felt about Valentina when I first met her a few months ago at a food blogger event. Valentina is one of those people who lights up a room with her energy, always has an encouraging word and is open to anyone and everyone – so even if you’re new, you feel like you’ve been a friend forever.
Valentina is from Caracas and has been living in Seattle with her husband Ryan (“I married the U.S.,” she told me recently) for the past two years. She’s also an incredible photographer and chef and teaches photo and cooking classes from her home in Eastlake. When she announced that she was going to be teaching an arepas class, I couldn’t wait to sign up. But then, of course, life happened and it seemed I wouldn’t be able to attend. I was disappointed, to say the least. I’d fallen in love with arepas in New York and was dying to learn how to make them at home from one of the best.
And then, just an hour before Valentina’s class last Friday, my schedule opened up and a ticket simultaneously became available. I feel bad for the person that had to drop out, but I was more than happy to stand in her place.
Valentina started class with a brief overview of the arepa – a cornmeal patty (naturally gluten-free) that is fried, baked or grilled. In Venezuela, the arepa is a staple of the daily cuisine. They are on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner, often stuffed with cheese, scrambled eggs, chicken or shredded beef. There’s a traditional arepa called Le Pelua (The Disheveled) that’s made with shredded beef and yellow cheeses. It’s my new favorite addiction.
After the overview, Valentina walked us through the steps of making the perfect arepa. Making arepas is all about the feeling – if you’re not ready to dig in and get your hands dirty, step away from the kitchen. But trust me, once you learn, you won’t be able to stop thinking about them. I’ve already made them twice this past week.
Nervous about trying them on your own? Valentina will be holding more classes this summer. If you’re interested in joining her (and I highly recommend you do), follow her on Twitter @ValentinaVitols for details. She’s also displaying her photography work this Saturday at her studio in SoDo. Stop by and say hello.
Theses measurements are meant as a guide only. You’ll know by the feel of the dough when to stop. Makes 2 large arepas.
One cup of lukewarm water
3/4 C – 1.5 C of white cornmeal (Harina P.A.N. is recommended)
A dash of olive oil
A pinch of salt
Add the cornmeal to the water, slowly, mixing with your fingers until it feels like wet clay. Don’t worry, it will still be a bit grainy. Add the oil and salt.
Using the palms of your hands, roll the dough into a ball and gently flatten into a patty. There’s no right or wrong size – the smaller and thinner the patty, the faster it will cook. If the dough starts to crack on the edges, add more water. If it sticks to your hands, add more cornmeal. The dough is forgiving.
Place the patties into a preheated skillet (we used cast iron) with just a bit of oil to coat the bottom.
Cooking time will depend on the size but about 7 minutes on each side worked well for our class. The arepas should be nicely browned and crispy on the outside, but not scorched.
When both sides are golden brown, put the arepas into a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. They should go directly on the rack. They’re done when they sound hollow when tapped.
They should be slightly doughy when you cut them open – that’s ok. Stuff with your favorite filling or simply with butter and cheese. You’ll find your way.4 comments