Arepas!

The final piece of the pabellón meal (that I am going to post here) is a piece that can actually stand on its own. Arepas are little cakes made of precooked, white corn flour that are usually cooked on a griddle in a little bit of oil, and then cut and filled with all sorts of good things. Sometimes it’s cheese, sometimes it’s meat, or vegetables, or a combination of any of those.

They come in all sizes, but for the pabellón meal, generally I make them about 2 1/2-3 inches in diameter. (If the arepa is the meal, they are generally 5 inches or so.) Also, they are formed to about 3/4″ thick.

Arepas
2 cups harina de maiz blanco precocido*
3 cups warm water
1 tsp salt
Canola Oil

Mix the flour and salt and water until a nice, wet dough is formed. Form round cakes by hand to the desired size. Add just enough oil to cover the cooking surface (I like to use a griddle) and cook until brown and crispy on the outside. Be sure to cook evenly on both sides. (Arepas can also be baked in the oven, usually after browning in the hot oil first. I do not usually bake mine.)

Once finished, allow to cool for a few minutes then slice open and add cheese (we use Queso De Freir, but most any white cheese will do) or whatever filling you’d like. Then enjoy!

* There are several places to get the precooked white corn flour … here are a couple of good options: Harina P.A.N. (from AmigoFoods.com), or Goya’s (white) Masarepa. I am actually able to find both at our local Wegmans.

Also, someday, I hope to visit the Caracas Arepa Bar in New York City. Check out their menu for some good ideas on what to put inside your arepas!

Pabellón Criollo: Carraotas Negras (Black Beans)

Another important piece of the pabellón meal is the black beans! Now, I do take the shortcut of using canned beans to start with, but you could certainly use dry beans. Prepare them as instructed and then finish them as described below. (But I’ll start with cans… it’s easier, faster, and they still taste great!)

Carraotas Negras (Black Beans) for Pabellón
2 cans black beans
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 1/2 tsp chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp adobo (with pepper)

Mix in garlic, onion, cilantro and adobo, and cover beans. Simmer on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes. The longer (and slower) you simmer, the better the flavor and consistency. Should be thicker when it’s ready to serve.

The amounts above are definitely approximations. Add each/all of those ingredients to your taste preferences. But that combination, simmered to perfection… a fantastic part of pabellón!

Pabellón Criollo (Carne Mechada)

When I was a kid, my family moved to Caracas, Venezuela. It was quite an experience, living three years of my youth in a foreign country. I learned the language, absorbed some of the culture, and acquired a taste for the food!

Now, as an adult, one of our favorite meals to make is pabellón criollo—the Venezuelan national dish!

I don’t always make the full meal, in fact, I almost never include the platanos [plantains]. (That’s just a personal preference.) But even when we just make parts, it’s fantastic! I will post each part of the meal separately here, starting with the recipe I use for the carne mechada [shredded beef].

(Note: I found this recipe posted to an internet forum several years ago now. I translated it, and of course, I modify it slightly every now and then. Usually we use a bit more meat (3lbs or so), and roughly double the rest of the ingredients. I also usually add a teaspoon and a half of Adobo once I add the meat to the vegetables.)

Carne Mechada:
1/2 kilo (about a pound) Flank Steak (any beef for roasting will do)
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 Pepper (Green and/or Red) finely chopped
2 sticks of Celery, chopped
1 Bunch of Cilantro – finely chopped
1 Can of Stewed Tomatoes
Garlic, Salt & Beef Bullion if you want

Place the meat crockpot with about a cup of water, medium onion, and a little salt. I add adobo and olive oil as well. Cook on low for many hours until tender, pulls apart easily.

Turn crockpot off, remove the meat and let it cool so you can shred it with your hands. Do not dispose of the liquid.

In a large pot, put just enough oil to cover the bottom. Heat up the oil and begin sauteing the garlic, onions, cilantro, pepper(s), and celery. Let it cook till all smells great, but do not burn the onion and garlic. After these have simmered for a bit, add the tomatoes and simmer a bit longer. Add the shredded meat and let it simmer a while longer. Now add the beef bullion, and the liquid from the crockpot. You can add a couple cups of water as well.

Stir this up and let it simmer for as long as you can, as this will let the flavors cook together. Making it delicious!

Serve when ready with rice, black beans, and arepas y platanos if you can. (More ideas for those to come!)

¡Buen provecho!