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
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.