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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Arepas de Maize - Corn Pancakes

Corn griddle cakes have been a staple for South Americans for thousands of years. Today, arepas have morphed from a simple water and corn batter into a delightful pancake with many variations.

Of course, Americans have taken it a step further. Just as we did with the dense, gritty cornbread of the Southern states, Northerners have added wheat flour, eggs, butter, sugar and baking powder to give arepas more fluff.

But even in South America, the arepa comes in many forms. The most common being arepa de queso (cheese pancake) or arepa de choclo (sweet pancake). They are served alongside meat dishes, chilies and stews and are commonly found on breakfasts plates with eggs, cheese and salsa.

A true South American arepa is made with de-germed corn grit, a little butter and some salt. Additions such as cheese, green chilis or sugar can be added. Arepas are often cut in half lengthwise and stuffed with cheese, meats and other fillings.

Making the maize batter for arepas by hand is extremely laborious. Traditionally, dried corn kernals were soaked in water and simmered until soft. The kernels were then passed through a meat grinder. Butter and salt were added and then formed into patties to be slow grilled. Nowadays, this preparation method is used primarily by gauchos on ranches and farms. The most popular method today is to purchase pre-made corn flour that is made specially for arepas. But in the West, a fine corn flour will work fine.

I made arepas today and served them with a big pot of chili. I added fresh cilantro and diced red pepper for color - a warming and comforting lunch on a cold, windy autumn day.

If you want keep in the tradition of the gauchos alive and do it by hand, try this traditional recipe from the Secrets of Colombian Cooking by Patricia McCausland-Gallo - Arepas de Maiz

Corn Arepas
Yield: 14 small pancakes

Corn flour, as well as all gluten-free flours, take much longer to cook than wheat flour. If you have a small griddle or are using a skillet, this can mean a long wait for each batch of cakes. In this recipe, I brown them 6-8 minutes on each side, then transfer them to a hot oven to finish the cooking.

2 1/2 cups fine corn flour (or a blend of corn and wheat flours)
2 cups milk
1 egg (optional)
2-4 tablespoons honey or unrefined sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked fresh, frozen or canned corn
1 tablespoon melted ghee or butter

Optional additions for savory cakes:
Use chicken or veggie stock instead of milk
Shredded cheese
Diced red or green bell pepper
Green chilies or jalapenos
Fresh chopped cilantro
Ground cumin

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Heat the griddle or a large skillet over medium heat. Form the batter into balls and flatten each into a rough disc. Grease the skillet with a little ghee or butter and drop the cakes onto the griddle, slow-cooking them 6-8 minutes each side, until browned and crispy.

While the first batch of cakes are cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a medium sheet pan. Remove the cakes to the sheet pan and bake another 10-15 minutes, until cooked all the way through.

corn arepas, corn pancakes, natural cooking, healthy recipes, gluten-free, maize, arepa de queso, arepa de choclo


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