Salsa Pollo Arepas

I have been enamored by arepas for a year now and I am on the way to making them correctly.  The first time I made them I had to experiment; I have six or seven different versions of how to make them:  bake, skillet fry and deep fry.  The skillet fry was tasty, but crumbly. My first attempt at baking was slightly more successful but equally crumbly. The secret to keeping them together?  Eggs. 

This last attempt proved much better and my pollo, or chicken, filling was mixed with fresh twice-roasted homemade salsa. Let me share with you how I made this dish come true. 

First, I added 2 cups of fine corn flour to a large bowl, along with (and this was new) a teaspoon of baking powder and a quarter teaspoon of baking soda.  I added 1/4 cup vegetable oil, two eggs and 2 tablespoons of cold water.  In addition, to make it a bit savory, I added 1/2 teaspoon of chile molido (chile powder), a pinch of salt and pepper and a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin to the mix. I thoroughly mixed the masa and formed it into a ball.  I sliced the ball into four equal parts and wrapped them in plastic wrap and set them in the refrigerator to rest thirty minutes. 

In the meantime, I'd purchased a half bone-in chicken (cut directly down the middle). I ground and blended my Mexican spice blend and rubbed the chicken with it. I set it in the refrigerator, uncovered, to let the spices flavor the chicken under and above the skin. 

In a large pot, I seared the half chicken.  This enabled the spices to marry further and get some color and crispness onto the skin and meat. 

Meanwhile, I preheated my oven to 400 degrees. I quartered a red onion.  To my small cast iron skillet, I added the onion quarters, 4 cloves garlic, two serrano chiles and two Fresno chiles. I added some extra virgin olive oil to them and sprinkled with a pinch of salt and pepper prior to roasting for 18 minutes. I turn them about ten minutes in to get a good blister on the chiles and color on the garlic and onion.  

I added a little salt and pepper, fresh cilantro and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of lime juice as I pulsed the onion, garlic and chiles into a warm fresh salsa in my little food processor. 

I added the warm fresh salsa to the chicken over an onion bed and roasted at 375-degrees for forty minutes. The salsa under and above the skin permeated the meat and filled the kitchen with an incredible aroma. 

When finished roasting, I shredded and chopped the chicken meat after removing the skin, and tossed the meat with the roasted salsa topping.  Delicious!

At this junction of time, as the salsa flavored the meat, I brought the dough to near room temperature and, after placing parchment paper on a baking sheet and spraying it with non-stick spray, I placed the dough balls on the areas I sprayed.  I then brushed the top of the dough with a mix of evoo and granulated garlic.  I baked the rolled areapa dough balls for 18 minutes until golden.  

Oven ready!

Now these turned out great!

While still warm, I sliced the buns open (so not really a true arepa) and stuffed them with the chicken, cilantro and cheese.  Between the warm spices in the buns, the flavorful fresh roasted veg and herb salsa and chicken and the cool of the cheese, this was one comforty and delectable arepa.  One of my amazing Chef friends reminds me that these are not true Venezuelan arepas, which is very true.  Some day I will learn now to make them authentically Venezuelan. In the meantime, I hope you might take a chance, do something different and daring and make this, whether you use my recipe or find one of your own.  Regardless, this is an amazing arepa.  Bun.  Sandwich, whatever we are going to call it.  

As always, THANK YOU for your time and consideration!  Now, go cook for someone you love!
In-House Cook

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