How to make Venezuelan arepas, my ultimate comfort food
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I come from a very special background: my parents both immigrated to the United States as teenagers, my father from Venezuela and my mother from Brazil (although we also have family in Argentina. with Lebanese and Syrian roots, try to keep up!).
Their two families settled in Miami, Florida in the 1980s, a growing melting pot of mostly Latin American expats. They met in high school and got married soon after graduating from college, after which they had four little daughters: my sisters and me.
That said, growing up, there was absolutely no shortage of comfort foods in our very heterogeneous household: empanadas, niÃ±os envueltos, hallacas, feijoada, pÃ£o de queijo and kibe (my mouth watering as I write these lines). But the only dish that really stood out to me when I left Miami to pursue my studies and later my dreams in New York were the Venezuelan arepas. Not only because they remind me of lazy Sundays at home, my father filling our kitchen with aromas of perico y queso blanco, but because they were so easy to prepare; I could prepare them in my small dormitory with just one burner. So I did.
In the 10 years I was away from Miami, I honed my arena building skills. I have mastered the art of making the dough spotlessly moist, rounding them into the perfect size patties, and getting just the right golden brown shade while I crispy them on the pan. I would continue our Sunday brunch tradition while living in Brooklyn, introducing them to friends and cooking them for my now fiancÃ©. As I filled them with gooey cheese and avocado chicken breast – or kept them soft and simple with just plain butter – I thought of my dad, hoping to make him proud. Whenever I was homesick, the arepas were there for me.
Today, living back in Miami and having 24/7 access to my father’s kitchen, I continue to work on perfecting my arepa recipe, but every once in a while I beg him to make them. . There is nothing more heartwarming than the original.
Get my recipe for Venezuelan arepas here:
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