What is that? Recipe and culture
If you like grilled cheese but you’ve never had an arepas, let Guillermo Riveros show you what you’re missing. He concocted a variation on the dish in his quarantine kitchen and shared the recipe – and the inspiration behind it – for all to enjoy.
In Colombia, we eat arepas all day, every day. It’s a breakfast staple, but you’ll find all kinds of versions (yellow corn, sweet corn, thin, chunky, grilled or fried, and even those with a taste fried egg indoors) at any time, whether at home, on the street, or in a high-end restaurant. As in most South American countries, corn is at the heart of our cuisine, and we have great respect for this ingredient, following a long tradition of mythology and reverence, inherited from our native ancestors. Today, corn is cheap and seemingly ubiquitous, but that doesn’t take away from the power and mystique of a good arepa.
During these moments of practice social distancing, I miss my family, and Colombian flavors even more than before. I find a great sense of comfort in cooking and eating things that remind me of my childhood home. With that in mind, I decided to make my own arepas from my apartment in Manhattan, substituting some of the ingredients (particularly the cheeses) in a quest to reclaim dishes and flavors through nostalgic cooking, and making my own these recipes.
With the arepas, I made hogao, which is the Colombian evolution of the Spanish sofrito. My version (unlike the slow-cooked big batches commonly found in Colombian kitchens) is closer to what my dad would do on a Sunday morning to put scrambled eggsa quick skillet of chopped tomatoes, green onions and garlic, with a touch of salt and pepper, and a super salty secret ingredient
Nothing strikes me as more comforting than a cheesy arepa slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt, next to a big serving of hogao on a plate. If you think about it, it’s not too far from your proven track record grilled cheese with tomato soup. I hope people who are unfamiliar with these foods will try them and find a new alternative to the comforting flavors they know, but Colombian style.