Arepas are a Venezuelan corn cake. They are made from pre-cooked cornmeal, sold as P.A.N. It can be found in the hispanic foods aisle in most grocery stores. They are very simple (and inexpensive) to make and can be served any time of day with a variety of toppings--really, whatever suits your fancy. My favorite is sharp cheddar or monterey jack cheese. They can be made larger for a whole meal or smaller for a side or appetizer.
All you need for arepas is the P.A.N., salt, and water.
First, preheat the oven to 350*.
Then, measure out 2 1/2 cups of luke warm water into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Next, add 2 cups of the Arena Pan. Stir it all together. At first, it will be really liquidy, but the cornmeal will absorb the water pretty quickly. The dough should be moist and workable. Now, you're ready to shape the arepas. Get a handful of the cornmeal mixture and make it into a ball. Then flatten it out a little bit. You want it to be thick enough to cut in half to make a sandwich out of it.
Next, heat up a skillet. Cast iron works best, but you can use any skillet. Oil it, but spread the oil around with a paper towel so it's not "standing" oil. To tell whether the skillet is hot enough, sprinkle a little bit of water. If it sizzles, the skillet is ready. Reduce the heat to medium and brown each side of the arepas until they're golden, 3-5 minutes. You want them to have a nice crust on each side. They should look somewhat like this, though darker is fine.
Once they're browned, put them in the oven directly on the rack for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the time. When you take them out, they should feel hollow when you tap on them. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for a minute or so. Then, slice in half and put whatever toppings you want. They can be eaten at any temperature.
One recipe makes about 6 arepas. It doubles well. I recommend refrigerating them to extend the shelf life. Also, make sure they are completely cool before storing them to avoid condensation in the container.
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