Sunday, December 13, 2009


Today began as nearly everyday for me begins with the question of what will I eat today. This question can be, and in determining what I eat it is rephrased several times before I settle on a meal. The choose of the word "will" in "what will I eat," demand that I will be eating something. This sort of assurance that substances will be coming my way is a word best left up to those with money. My day starts off with two questions, "What can I eat," and "What could I eat?" The former is in the realm of fantasy where images of plump sausages, fruit, and cream try to distract my appetite from the meager state of my larder. All this occurs while I ponder the first question of what can I eat. I know coming into the kitchen that there is always basics of salt and sugar, along with various dried herbs and spices. Then there are some of what would be called the basics, but with the struggle to feed oneself they are common place but hardly standard; flour, masa, and render pork fat (raw lard). Today was a special day because beyond the basics I had meat. Generally speaking when I say there is meat in my home it is normally pork, and when there is pork more than likely it is pork belly (I shall, at a later time, discuss the wonders of the belly). The belly, which is now cured for bacon, I decided to save for later in the week, so today I make use of the other components that the belly provides; bone and skin. The other day I had removed the rib bones from the belly and slowly braised them for six hours, they then became part of a wonderful rice dish. Later that night I took the sheet of pig skin off the belly and allow it to cook slowly in the same liquid from the ribs. The skins spent the night steeping in the liquid till this morning, where I pulled, dry them off, and cut them in pretty little ribbons to fry off for delicious crispy bits of fried skin. These little ribbons became the filling for my arepas.

The arepa is one of those holy little items of the culinary world that gives meaning to a impoverished meal. Arepas are masa cakes the come from South America, they are often the bread for small sandwich like creations, sliced and filled with a variety of goodies. I first came across arepas while working a the Chicago restaurant Coobah where they produced a sweet variety that I have adopted for my home. The version given here is similar to their version but with a few variations, such as the use of a filling, they simple made the cakes as a base for their Eggs Benedict variation. The measurements are approximated, since I do this mostly to feel.

2 c. Masa

2 T cilantro, chopped

TT Salt

1/8 c. sugar

2 T Rhum, optional

1 can coconut milk, optional

Toss you masa, cilantro, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Place the sugar in a heavy bottom pan with enough water to give a wet sand feel, and place it over high heat. As the water cooks away the sugar will have enough time to melt, and then begin to caramelize. Once the sugar reaches a nice amber color you will turn it in to a caramel sauce of some form. The options here are adding about 2 cups of water to the caramel while whisking, or adding the Rhum will whisking followed by the water or coconut milk. While the sauce is still boiling pour it into the masa mixture. Stir quickly to evenly mixt the dough till it forms a stiff dough that is pliable and holds to together, if needed add more water. Pull off about 1 oz. balls of the dough forming them into round discs. Place your filing in the middle, and cover with a second disc and seal the edges. After all of the arepas are formed fry them in a little hot lard until they are nicely browned on the outside.

They filing can vary, but should be able to hold up to the sweet dough. For this meal I used the salted fried pig's skin I mentioned earlier. The final verison of this dish was served with sofrito made with tomato, culantro, cilantro, scallion, onion, jalapeno, lime, and shredded smoked fermented fish.

1 comment:

  1. Pictures too!!! Brilliant! Your culinary genius puts the love in my love handles.