Stuffed Arepas or Viudas?
After the launch of my debut novel, Waking Up in Medellin, the first book in the Nikki Garcia Thriller Series, I’ve visited book clubs to speak about Nikki’s escapades in Medellin. A few readers have mentioned how much they enjoyed Nikki’s Colombian gastronomy adventures.
A local peasant supper Nikki enjoyed with the charismatic and handsome doctor, Eduardo Duarte, is an attention getter, perhaps since it is a stark contrast to the lavish banquet where they met.
Eduardo takes Nikki to a ramshackle restaurant to introduce her to bite-size arepas made from unleavened corn flour. When left unstuffed, arepas are called “viudas”, which means widows. Once these little “widows” are stuffed with a variety of fillings, such as the local stew called bandeja paisa, the other dish Eduardo introduces to Nikki, they become tasty morsels.
Do arepas look like thick little Mexican Corn Tortillas by another name? (Yes, but don’t say that to the people in the province of Antioquia in Colombia!!!)
Stay tune next week for recipes used for the banquet where Nikki met Eduardo.
Stuffed arepas on the left and “viudas” on the right. Once they are filled, shouldn’t they be called
“brides” or another more exciting name?
1 cup arepa flour (precooked cornmeal)
1 cup crumbled ricotta salata or grated mozzarella (1/4 pound)
1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 cup
2 tablespoons water (add more if dough is too dry)
Toss together cornmeal flour, cheese, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Stir in water until incorporated. Let stand until water is absorbed to form soft dough, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Take 3 level tablespoons dough to form into 1 ball and flatten between your palms, gently pressing to form a 1/4-inch-thick patty (2 1/2 to 2 3/4 inches wide). Press gently all around to eliminate cracks. Transfer to a wax-paper-lined surface and cover with a towel. Form more disks with remaining dough in same manner.
For fried arepas, heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry arepas in 2 batches, turning over once, until deep golden in patches, 8-10 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels. (Or heat a cast iron griddle, apply a coating of oil and cook like you would a tortilla. When cool, cut a slit in the arepa and scoop out excess dough).
Bandeja Paisa – Easy Recipe
4 cups red beans or kidney beans
2 teaspoons Himalayan salt
2 diced green plantains
1 carrot, cut or grated
1 pork trotter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
You will also need: Grilled 8 oz. beefsteak, fully cooked and cut into chunks and cooked white rice.
Rinse beans and place them in a pressure cooker half filled with water plus salt. Cook for 30 minutes. Cool down pressure cooker and add the rest of the ingredients with the beans. Cook under pressure another 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cooker down again and add the beefsteak chunks. Stir and serve over steaming white rice, with or without the pork trotter. Adorn with fried plantain and serve with freshly made arepas. (Don’t like pork trotter? Chefs the world over use it as a secret ingredient in many dishes as it adds a lot of flavor). Enjoy with an ice cold, dark beer.