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Recipe of the week: Venezuelan Arepas

“A griddled cake made from white cornmeal, salt, and water, the arepa is the alpha and omega of the Venezuelan diet,” said John Broening in The Denver Post. Popular both for breakfast and dinner, it’s a staple that crosses all class lines: It even became the focus of a populist revolt when the government recently attempted to force its own cornmeal into the nation’s kitchens. The “clean corn flavor” of an arepa tastes great whether it’s paired with just butter or used to hold tuna salad, avocados, or carne mechada—spicy pulled beef.

Venezuelan ArepasAbout 1 tbsp unsalted butter 2½ cups warm water 2 cups precooked white cornmeal (Harina P.A.N. preferred) 1½ tsp salt (adjust to taste)

Melt butter in the water. Sprinkle in cornmeal and salt, stirring vigorously to avoid lumps. Work dough with hands a few minutes until smooth. Cover with damp cloth and let sit 10 minutes, until dough firms.

Divide dough into 8 portions. With slightly wet hands, form into balls and flatten until about ½-inch thick.

Place arepas in a heated cast-iron pan filmed with oil—a flat comal if you have one. Turn them once you see a slight browning on the surfaces touching the pan.

Transfer arepas to 350-degree oven, placing them directly on racks. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the cakes puff and sound hollow when you pick them up and tap them. Split in half and fill.

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