Sunday, July 8, 2012

Breakfast our way

By now you’ve already noticed that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

There is something to be said about the way that vanilla cinnamon pancakes with warm syrup can brighten up any day and make you feel as if you were 5 years old again where everything is simple and your biggest worry is whether or not the kid next door will be able to come out and play.

During the workweek, my favorite meal and I barely ever get the chance to meet. I do make the effort to sit down with an extra hot nonfat latte, but rarely, if ever do I make it to the table with anything breakfast-y.  However, when Saturday and Sunday come around it’s a whole different story. Even if I wake up after 11am, breakfast is definitely on the schedule.

Although I am always game for pancakes or eggs benefit, growing up in a Venezuelan household meant an unhealthy amount of love for Arepas.

Arepas are very similar to a dense corn bread except they are made out of yellow or white cornmeal and water. Some people add milk or eggs to the batter; I’ve even seen one’s made with oatmeal. Once the batter is rested you make them into flat little balls and either fry them or bake them. To make the whole process faster, some very intelligent individual created something call an arepera or an arepa maker which makes them perfect every single time. Bobby Flay from the food network even made some for his show Throw Down with Bobby Flay. I’m pretty sure if you Google it, you can find him getting his arepa making on.

Erick isn’t a big fan of arepa’s although he will humor me from time to time and eat one. He will even inform you that if you plan on forcing him to eat an arepa, he much rather eat a Colombian arepa which is similar to the Cuban Tamale in a flat circle shape. Unfortunately for him, I’m Venezuelan and not Colombian so I have no idea on to make them. Until I learn (I actually never plan to learn) he is stuck with my Venezuelan version.

A few months back, he finagled his way into convincing me to alter the recipe for arepa making so that they could taste more like fresh corn and thus he would be more willing to eat them. Since I am all for compromising, I said sure, and now he eats arepas more frequently.

arepas in an arepa maker
To make traditional arepas you’ll need

  • 2/3 cup of warm water
  • A teaspoon of salt
  • A teaspoon of oil or butter
  • 1 ½ cup of cornmeal (arina pan brand is what I’ve always used)

arepa maker
To make Erick’s version of arepas you’ll need

  • ½ cup of warm water
  • A teaspoon of salt
  • A teaspoon of oil or butter
  • 1 ½ cup of cornmeal
  • Half a can of sweet cream of corn

  • In a bowl, mix the warm water, salt and oil or butter.  If making Erick’s version, you will also add the cream of corn at this time.  
  • Slowly add the cornmeal little by little. Make sure that you are mixing with your hand so that the mixture does not clump up. Once you have added the cup and a half of cornmeal it should be at a soft dough consistency. If the mixture resembles hard cookie dough and is tough, you added too much cornmeal. To solve this problem just add more water until it’s a soft dough. If the dough is too runny, add an additional half cup of cornmeal. 
  • Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Form into balls the size of a baseball (about 4 oz.) and then flatten out like a hamburger. Once you have done this you can either fry them in vegetable oil or grill them in a skillet.   
  • If grilling them, I recommend grilling on both sides for a minute or two on medium heat until they are toasty on the outside and not cooked in the inside. Afterwards, place them in an oven for 20 minutes. This will ensure that they are crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked in the inside.

To serve:

Cut the arepa as if you were cutting a burger bun or an English muffin. Add butter, ham and cheese or any topping you would prefer and enjoy!  I swear it’s not complicated at all and it’s the perfect vessel for everything breakfast related. Venezuelans eat arepa’s are every meal and with countless toppings. My ultimate favorite arepa combination is shredded beef (Cubans call this ropa vieja or baca frita) avocado and cheese.

As you’ve probably guessed by his lack of arepa love, Erick is neither Venezuelan nor Colombian, he is actually Cuban. Which means Erick can make an amazing cup of Cuban coffee to go with our Venezuelan arepa breakfast.  This a pretty awesome mixture of two cultures early in the morning ;)

arepa with ham and cheese, eggs served on the side

To make the perfect cup of Cuban coffee (which I have not mastered) you’ll need:
  • An espresso machine (I’m pretty sure any coffee machine would work if you pack the coffee grounds hard enough)
  • Coffee grounds, preferably Cuban coffee
  • Real sugar- no splenda or truvia for this recipe
  • A cup (I used a measure cup so I can poor the coffee with ease)
  • A spoon

  • Begin by adding a good 4 or 5 tablespoons of sugar to a cup (measure cup), yes I did say tablespoons. I know it’s a lot of sugar but it’s worth it, plus, it’s the sugar that gives Cuban coffee that foamy layer on top.
  • Prepare your coffee pot like you would normally do, except with one very important exception. When adding the coffee grounds, add twice the amount and make sure to pack it down very tightly. It should be so tight that the coffee grounds are stuck together. I normally add 5 tablespoons of coffee grounds and pack it down with the spoon pressing really hard. This will make the coffee turn into espresso and not American or drip coffee.
  • Place your coffee pot on the range/stove and wait for the coffee to brew.
  • Once the coffee starts to brew, add a few drips of coffee to the sugar you had in a cup. A few drips should be able a teaspoon of liquid. This is very important. Almost as important as packing down the coffee grounds.
  • Important: Too much liquid and you have sugar soup.
  • Then you use the spoon to mix the mixture like crazy. It will look smooth and creamy once you’re done. Once the coffee is done brewing, add the remainder of the coffee to the sugar mixture and mix well. It should be foamy on the top and black on the bottom.

Once you have done all of this, Congratulations you have the perfect Cuban coffee which needs no sugar added and should be served small coffee cup.

Warning: Cuban coffee is not only addictive, it is also incredibly strong. Drink with caution especially if you don’t want to be up until 5am.  

my coffee pot

sugar with a few drops of coffee

the texture of sugar mixture should resemble glaze

after you add the remainder of the coffee to the mixture
the final product after you mix the sugar and the coffee :)

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