I have been wanting to try arepas for a long time, ever since I read Gluten Free Girl's wonderful post here about how to make them. But I can't find pre-cooked cornmeal anywhere locally. I have no problem finding corn flour, masa harina, cornmeal, corn tortillas, hominy...all those lovely gluten free mexican offerings. But no P.A.N. And then I stumbled across this arepa recipe here at Rice of Life that uses hominy instead of precooked cornmeal! I can definitely find hominy! I cannot describe my excitement over finding this recipe. (Rice of Life has so many wonderful sounding recipes - if you have not checked it out, you should!) So I made arepas with the ingredients found at Rice of Life and I followed the method found at Gluten Free Girl. They turned out so delicious that I made three batches in three days. Even the dough smells mouth-watering before cooking. Arepas are so easy to make, and so versatile. They can be stuffed with anything. They remind me of corn english muffins, only better. If you make them thin enough and split them open and stuff them, it's like having thin crispy crusts of gluten free goodness holding the filling together, it's just awesome. And delicious. I need to make more.
2 15oz cans white or yellow hominy, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
1 cup masa harina, plus more if needed
3 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
Heat a griddle, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the hominy, olive oil and salt in a food processor. Slowly add the water in a thin stream and puree for a couple of minutes, or until the hominy looks smooth and creamy. Scrape into a bowl.
Add the masa harina and mix well. Add the scallions and stir to incorporate. Feel the dough with your hands. If it feels wet and sticky, add a little more masa harina.
Take a clump of dough and form it into a ball about the size of your palm. Flatten the ball into a circle about 1/2 inch thick and smooth the edges. If the dough is too dry, it will crack around the edges. If it is too wet, it will stick all over your hands. Adjust with just a little water or masa harina as necessary. After the dough is flattened, it should stick to your hand upside down for just a couple of seconds, like this:
Oil the hot griddle lightly, then place the arepas on the griddle. Cook until a light brown crust forms on the bottom, about 5 - 7 minutes.
Flip and cook on the other side until a crust forms, about another 8 minutes. Don't scorch them, and don't get impatient - the insides need to cook too.
Transfer the arepas to a baking sheet and place them in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes. Tap them - when done they should sound hollow. Cool slightly.
To split the arepas open, take a sharp knife, insert it about 1/2 inch into the crusty edge and run it all the way around. The arepa will fall open to reveal a slightly doughy inside - don't be alarmed, this is they way they should be. (If you run the knife all the way through the arepa, the insides will stick to the knife.)
Fill your arepa with anything. So far I've filled them with Cuban Shredded Pork and avocado slices, sliced tomatoes with basil and greens, fried egg and ham, and eaten them just plain. They'd also make good BLT's, chicken salad sandwiches...they'd make good anything, really!