Grilled Arepas
with Farmer's Cheese (or Queso Blanco)
From Latin Grill: Sultry and Simple Food for Red-Hot Dinners and Parties, by Rafael Palomino, with Arlen Gargagliano; Photographs by Dan Goldberg

It's not only nostalgia that makes me love arepas; it's also their versatility! These corncakes are hugely popular in many forms in my native Colombia and neighboring Venezuela (among other places) and have now actually caught on in many parts of the United States. What makes them especially wonderful is that they offer cooks fabulous flexibility as far as preparation. So here I'm giving you my basic recipe and a serving suggestion but please know you can add whatever you'd like (grilled corn, diced peppers, different cheeses, just to name a few possibilities).

Here I'm suggesting that you smear a bit of farmer's cheese or Mexican queso blanco on top. Great as an appetizer, these arepas are perfect with any cocktail!


1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed
3/4 cup heated chicken stock or water
1 cup instant cornmeal
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sour cream
1 ounce Manchego cheese, grated
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup farmer's cheese or Mexican queso blanco


In a blender, process the corn kernels and chicken stock until smooth. Pour the cornmeal into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and sour cream. Pour in the chicken stock and corn mixture while stirring with your hands or a wooden spoon. Add the grated cheese. Form mixture into a ball. Then separate into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten into a pancake about 1/4-inch thick and 2 inches in diameter (but rub your fingers around the edge so that it maintains its thickness). At this point you can cover the arepas with a damp kitchen towel and refrigerate them for up to 1 day before grilling.

Light a fire in a charcoal or gas grill. Brush the arepas lightly with the melted butter (for flavor and to prevent sticking). Grill the arepas until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. They should be toasted on the outside, but soft in the middle. Let cool to room temperature. Before serving, top with a spread of the farmer's cheese.

Yield:4 servings

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