Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Recipes for a Venezuelan meal

Okay, we'll start with the arepa con carne mechada since that picture loaded first...

Arepa-the Venezuelan "gordita"

Arepas are made from a pre-cooked corn meal that is generally available at Latin food stores in the U.S. It might be hard to find in other parts of the world outside of Colombia and Venezuela. The most popular brand in Venezuela is the Harina PAN, a bright yellow package that is easy to spot in the stores.

I do not measure the water that I add to the corn meal, but I would say that recipe should go something like this:

2 cups corn flour
1 tsp. salt
3? cups of warm water (I think it's about 1 1/2 cups of water per cup of corn meal)

I add the water and then continue to mix the dough for a few minutes since the corn meal tends to soak up the water...sometimes I get it too hard and have to add more water after it's 'set' and that's hard. Anyway, the mix should be somewhat easy to handle, not too sticky and wet, but not so hard that the sides crack when you form the arepas.

Make a ball with the dough, then gradually start flattening the ball to form a cake...I generally just grab a handful and make them all relatively the same size. Fry the arepas on a griddle with a little oil until browned and crispy on both sides.

Colombians eat their arepas with the meal like bread, but Venezuelans cut them open and stuff them with many different kinds of fillings, ranging from butter and cheese to scrambled eggs to beef, pork, or chicken. The arepa in the picture below is stuffed with shredded beef, called 'carne mechada'.

Carne Mechada

Boil beef (chicken, pork, or other meat could be substituted) and cool, then shred
--For seasoning, add salt, garlic, onion, etc.

Sauté chopped onion, garlic, cilantro, peppers, and tomato in oil
Add the meat and simmer; add a little bit of the beef broth if needed to keep the meat moist
For added seasonings, comino and/or adobo can be used.

Meat cooked this way is also great over rice or to accompany beans!

Arepa with carne mechada
Venezuelan Potato Salad
Salt to taste
Optional ingredients: boiled eggs, onions, pickles, chopped cilantro
Boil the potatoes, carrots, and beets. Sometimes I just throw the potatoes and carrots in the pot together and then peel afterwards. Or, the carrots can be peeled and chopped and then boiled, but that's a bit more work... The beets can be boiled whole, but it doesn't take as long if they are cut up in several pieces. They do tend to lose their color, but adding a bit of lemon juice will help.
Peel and dice the potatoes, carrots, and beets. Add mayonnaise and salt. Sometimes I add garlic powder for extra flavor. I also like to grate onion and then add just the onion juice-it avoids the crunchy burst of onion, which Miguel doesn't care for. If you add the boiled eggs, onions, or pickles, chop first...

Venezuelan potato salad, fried plantains, and arepa with carne mechada (cheese on the side)
I really commend you if you are still reading!!!! This is turning out to be a loooong post...maybe I should have broken it up. Oh well. I did want to add a note about frying plantains...
Tajadas (fried sliced plantains)
Venezuelans love their fried plantains (plátano)! They eat them nearly every day. Generally, tajadas are made from ripe plantains. Just peel and slice at an angle, then fry in oil. I have found that the riper the plantain, the more greasy they get...the exception to that is when I've used coconut oil and then they don't seem to be as greasy. To avoid frying, sometimes I sauté the tajadas in butter or a little oil and that seems to work pretty well, too.
There are many ways to cook plantains. The green ones are best fried like chips, with salt. I also like to add green plantain chunks to soups, but I think that's an acquired taste... The riper ones can be boiled (with or without the peel-cut each plantain into several pieces), roasted on the grill or in a fire (with peel-poke holes to allow the steam to escape), peeled and baked in the oven (they can be cut open and lined with cheese or slathered in butter and brown sugar!), etc. I've even had a sort of lasagna once that had fried plantains instead of the noodles! We eat them raw (ripe, only!). :) I guess the possibilities are endless...


Ellie said...

Ok - not going to make cornmeal breads, but the beef looks good. I have a roast (well, a hunk of meat - ha! that could be taken two ways!) in the freezer and there is not any reason for us here to eat a roast, but making shredded cooked beef out of it sounds good. Piles of easy meals come to my head from that. I just never thought of that yet.

Rebecca Conduff Aguirre said...

Yeah, the arepas are kind of hard to fix if you don't have the right flour...but there are a lot of things you can do with the shredded meat! On Monday, I made burritos with shredded chicken that I added to chorizo and the fried onions/tomatoes/garlic/tomatoes and also threw in some whole black beans...they were awesome! And I was thinking that those burritos would have been good put back in the oven and baked some more with cheese on top. Yumm...but they were good as is, too.

Miguel also loves sandwiches of the shredded meat, too, toasted or plain. When he worked full-time in the U.S. he got so tired of ham and cheese and loved the meat sandwiches. :)

Cindy said...

so, do you think maseca for tortillas would work for arepas or not? I don't see anything like what you described at two different import stores I looked at this week.
And what is the difference between arepas and gorditas?
I haven't made gorditas either but have been thinking about it because the kids love them!

Rebecca Conduff Aguirre said...

Hey, Cindy...I would have thought you could find it there since they sell it in NWAR-sometimes it's called areparina, GOYA produces it as well. Sometimes I've had to ask for it...the main difference is in the corn meal used. And the arepa is a lot thicker than a gordita...the arepa corn flour is fluffier or something and allows you to form them a lot more like playdough...when I've worked with the Maseca it is a lot more 'limp' and harder to work with-maybe I get it too wet? I have made 'arepas' with the Maseca and they turned out okay, but not the same taste.

We love gorditas, too! Well, most of us...Jojo wasn't too impressed. I like the flour ones the of the tricks to cooking the flour gorditas is to get the griddle good and hot and then use something to press down on them while they are cooking on the second side...that's what makes them puff up and separate in the middle so they can easily be cut open.