Venezuelans like their tender cuts of beef lean and medium rare. No fancy seasonings or brines, etc… just salt, maybe pepper. A great golden crust is a must and that’s pretty much it. When it comes to side dishes… delicious fried yucca is pretty common and so are a few fresh sauces. We like guacamoles and guasacacas, chimichurris are also pretty standard. Now when it comes to bread, that’s hardly ever there. Instead we have mini arepas which are a traditional staple of steak houses back home. Always deep fried and always paired with a cool bowl of natilla which is similar to crema latina. Depending on where you live you might easily find natilla/crema latina or not at all. Sour cream is a close substitution.
Being Venezuelan, I’ve covered the subject of arepas in the past. You can find other more involved arepa recipe here on the blog like arepas con carne mechada for example. But if you want to keep it simple and practice the basics (not that there’s anything that tricky here although a few years ago my arepas were perfect examples of mini kitchen disasters) you can just follow this basic recipe for the mini version.
Ingredients (makes about 6 mini arepas):
1 cup of masa harina.
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of salt
How to make mini arepas:
Mix it all up and let it rest for about 5 minutes so that the arepa flour hydrates properly and absorbs all the available water. Different brands of masa harina absorb different amounts (big differences too) of water so… here is were practice makes perfect. You’re looking for a dough that is malleable and doesn’t crack easily but it should have body and not be floppy. Finding this balance is the trickiest part in the whole process.
Make little balls about an inch in dimeter and then flatten at the poles.
Deep-fry for about 4-5 minutes at 350F or until golden and beautiful. Place over paper towels and allow to cool off for a few minutes.
That’s pretty much it. Make a bunch, put it in a bowl, place it at the table and watch them disappear.