In rather fitting fashion for this cultural melting pot of a recipe, the first time I ate an arepa I was neither in its home, South America, or my home, the U.S., where it’s a regional specialty in places like Miami, FL.
I was in Spain, led by the casual suggestion of a hostel employee who must have thought it’d be funny to send the American to a Venezuelan spot when asked what Spanish restaurants were good in the area (which, hey, it definitely is). Regardless, those golden brown corn cakes, sliced open and brimming with an array of meats, fish, sauces, and cheeses, were a fond highlight of the trip. So, the moment I caught wind of this recipe that could be made in the comfort of my own home, and used the ever convenient Bumble Bee® Tuna as it’s unique star, I knew it was time to give it a go.
Arepas are traditionally made with masarepa, a corn product that’s produced by soaking dried corn, separating their outer lining and seed germ, and then cooking and grounding what’s left over. Thankfully, masarepa can be bought at most Latin markets. Look for P.A.N. Harina De Maiz, it’s widely regarded as the chef’s choice.
To start, mix about two cups of the cornmeal with two and a half cups of warm water and a tablespoon of salt. Knead this into a soft dough, and allow it to rest for five minutes. During this time, heat a cup of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat, and preheat the oven to 350.
Once the dough has sat, split it into four portions, and form them into balls before flattening them into thick, even disks. Then, when the skillet is up to ideal heat, fry each disk until lightly browned on each side. After that, leave them in the oven to keep warm.
Now, bring another skillet to medium-high heat, after adding a teaspoon of vegetable oil (or use the arepa skillet with most of the oil drained, who am I to judge?). Drain, then add, the can of corn and cook for about five minutes or until browned. Next, toss in two pouches of Bumble Bee® Cracked Pepper and Sea Salt Tuna and cook until hot.
Alright. Preparation done.
It’s time for assembly.
Take the warm arepas and slice them width-wise. Place a slice of American cheese and a scoop of the tuna-corn combo on the bottom bun, and then bring the queso into the mix with a healthy sprinkle of cotija cheese. Finally, top with some cilantro and there it is — a delicious arepa in the comfort of your own home.
As with any recipe, feel free to spice this up with additional ingredients. Avocado, mayo-based spreads, and beans are all traditional arepas fillings. But, really, the beauty of the arepa lies in its flexibility.
And if that beauty can be made in under an hour? Count me in.