How to make Thanksgiving leftovers something to be thankful for!
While on a call with Chef Lorena Garcia, I asked her to share what her all-time favorite recipe is. She laughed and said it’s like asking which one of your kids is your favorite child. What she did say is that the arepa, a staple of her home country, Venezuela, might just be one of her favorites.
Chef Lorena Garcia’s life as a chef, entrepreneur, cookbook author, media personality, cookware designer and restauranteur has been a celebration of the cooking and passion for food that she grew up with in her native Caracas, Venezuela, with the international flavors and culinary techniques she amassed as a young chef working in some of the world’s finest restaurants.
The simplicity and comfort of the basic arepa is something she serves as a “bread basket” at her restaurant, Chica, and yet, the ability to turn it from a basic table staple into a upscale dish depending on what you do with it makes it amazingly versatile. These light and fluffy disks are ever present in Venezuelan and Colombian cuisine. Somewhere between an English muffin or gordita, they can be eaten warm with butter as a snack, or split in half and stuffed with cheese, meats, or other tasty fillings. These are to Venezuelans what baguettes are to the French! They are as adaptable as they are delicious. They can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a tasty snack.
After making my first batch of arepas using Chef Lorena’s recipe, I knew this would be the perfect way to use my Thanksgiving leftovers and turn a “day after” meal into something special with minimal effort. Simply shred some of your leftover turkey, brown it and add some onion to create the main filling. Split your arepa in half. Stuff with the turkey and add some pico de gallo, a little queso fresco, a touch of cilantro if so inclined and there you go!
Here’s Chef Lorena’s recipe for easy arepas to get you started!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 8 (4 1/2 ounces each)
2 cups precooked corn flour (masa arepa flour)
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp vegetable oil (for greasing skillet)
In a mixing bowl, combine the precooked corn flour and salt. Add the water and knead the mixture until all the ingredients are well combined and the dough no longer sticks to your hands. (If, while kneading, the dough seems too stiff and breaks apart, add a few tablespoons of hot water; if it is too sticky, add a little more corn flour.)
Divide the dough into 8 equal balls (about 4 1/2 ounces each) and flatten each between your palms to form a 4-inch patty, 1/2-inch thick.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Add 3 or 4 arepas to the pan (depending on the size of the pan). The arepas should sizzle as they hit the skillet.
Cook the arepas until they’re golden and have a nice crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip them and brown the other side for an additional 6 to 8 minutes. Then cover the arepas and continue to steam them for another 5 minutes.
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