Venezuelan Arepas Con Pollo

Venezuelan Chicken Sandwiches in Toasted Cornmeal Patties
Arepas Con Pollo Mechado

As taught by Monire Child from Venezuela

Note: This is a perfect special lunch, brunch or dinner. If you make the stewed chicken the day before (it tastes better that way anyway!), that leaves only 15-20 minutes of active time making the arepas the day of the meal, starting an hour and a half before you’d like to eat. They’d be great served with any kind of green salad.

Makes 8-10 small sandwiches. Big eaters’ll have two.

4 lb whole chicken or 4-5 chicken breasts
2 tsp annatto seeds
1 Tbsp whole cumin seeds
2 yellow onions, sliced thinly
1 green pepper sliced
½ red pepper sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the bottom of a glass into chunks, then minced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin (to taste)
1 tsp salt (to taste)
4 roma tomatoes blended with 1 cup water
P.A.N. Pre-cooked cornmeal
1-2 cups shredded mozzerella
corn oil

Make the Chicken Filling
(1.5-2 hrs)

Simmer chicken in salted water (about 2 tsp salt per gallon) until chicken is opaque through and through, 45min-1 hr, skimming and discarding foam and oil off the surface as it appears. Strain chicken, saving the broth for making soup or rice later. (broth keeps in the fridge for weeks, and freezes, too). Once chicken has cooled enough to touch, discard any skin and peel strands of meat into bite sized pieces, discarding all bones, tendons and cartelidge.

While chicken is simmering, prep all the veggies and gather spices you’ll need next: slice yellow onions, green pepper, red pepper, smash and chop garlic, blend tomatoes w/ water.

Heat an 8 qt pot on medium. Add just enough corn oil to cover the bottom and annatto seeds. Once the oil has turned bright orange, and before the seeds burn remove and discard with a slotted spoon. Add cumin seeds, garlic and onions. When onions are soft, add peppers, 1 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp oregano. Once peppers are soft, add pulled chicken and stir. Add blended tomato water and stew for about 20 min., adding salt and cumin powder until it tastes perfect to you. When chicken has soaked up most of liquid but is still juicy, turn off heat. It’s ready to use now as filling, and is even better the next day. Refrigerate or freeze.

Make arepas (total 1.5 hrs, active time 20 minutes)

2 ½ c. lukewarm water
2 cups P.A.N. Venezuelan cornmeal
1 tsp salt
corn oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Pour the water in a bowl, add salt, slowly add the corn meal, and mix/squeeze with hands until it feels just a little soggier than Playdough. Let set for a couple minutes. Put a saute pan or griddle on medium-high. Make a round ball the size of a lime by rolling dough between your palms with a circular motion.  Then pat back and forth between your hnands to make a ½-inch-thick patty.

Put a little corn oil in a bowl. Use your fingers to oil lightly both sides of patty, and place on pre-heated pan on medium. Leave for about 10 minutes and flip. You want a slightly golden look on both sides. Transfer each directly onto the oven rack to finish cooking, about 40 minutes.

Assemble Sandwiches

Slice hot arepas sideways with a small knife (a steak knife works great) as if it is a thin version of an english muffin. Sandwich between the two halves: hot cumin-stewed pulled chicken and grated mozerella.

Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2010