Chicken, Black Bean & Plantain Stuffed Arepas

I’m on a roll these past few posts, nothing but Spanish cooking lately!

Today, we travel to Venezuela, famous for their corn flatbreads called arepas. 

I am not a big baker (and baking is even harder for my family since my sister can’t eat anything with gluten), and these are super easy to make. And they’re gluten free!

Even better, the arepas then get stuffed full with delicious fillings like a pita! Oh, yes.

This is my favorite filling combination (slow cooked beef instead of chicken is a close second). But you could fill them with really anything – try scrambled eggs and salsa with cheese for breakfast!

Adriana Lopez of Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen gets credit for inspiring me to add the fried plantain as a filling. Yum.

Arepas are first cooked in a pan before being baked in the oven; I like to cook mine in a cast iron grill pan for the lovely marks it leaves on the bread! But you can use a regular skillet, too.

For the chicken, first make my Pechuga de Pollo a la Plancha recipe.

If you have looked at some other Spanish recipes I’ve posted, you probably noticed the fried plantains on the plate. You can make them from fresh, but I buy them already sliced, fried and frozen (in my store they’re next to the french fries). Goya is a well-known and common Spanish brand that’s widely available here, and they taste just like you made them yourself. Just follow the package directions to bake in the oven or pan fry.

Also, the beans. Making beans from scratch takes hours. Unless I’m making a traditional dish where I need the beans done a certain way, I use canned refried beans (check the label to be sure there’s nothing weird in them, just beans and spices) and add my own extras to them. I also use canned black beans often – the low sodium kind with as few ingredients as possible, and season them myself. From-scratch beans are just not possible for me most of the time!

The arepa preparation I follow is from the cookbook Gran Cocina Latina but a very similar method is described hereAn internet search will show you many different methods, which isn’t surprising since this is one of the most popular and well-known Venezuelan foods. The method I am going to show you has always worked for me. The only variation is I make them larger so there’s 1 per person. Make them small (3 inches) if you like.

The dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for a few days. I have made this sandwich the night before and reheated it for lunch the next day, along with some rice; perfectly delicioso.

arepa

Chicken, Black Bean & Plantain Stuffed Arepas

for the arepas:

  • 1 cup precooked white or yellow corn flour, such as Harina P.A.N. brand
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon oil, plus 1/2 tablespoon for frying (preferably corn, but I use canola)
  • Pechuga de Pollo a la Plancha recipe
  • 1-16 ounce can refried black beans
  • 1-4 ounce can chopped hot green chiles
  • fried plantains, made from scratch or store bought frozen and heated per package directions
  • cojita cheese for topping (if you can’t find it, use mozzarella or even a little feta!)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Your chicken should be in the fridge marinating away at this point!

Put the refried beans in a small pan and add 3 tablespoons of the green chiles (more if you like!). Heat on low with the lid on while you prepare the arepas.

The fried plantains I buy take about 25 minutes in the oven; I start them baking now. If you only have one oven, you can microwave or fry them.

 

to make the arepas:

In a large bowl, mix the corn flour and salt; pour the water and oil over the top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

After water is absorbed, knead the dough with your hands until smooth. Cover with a damp towel and let rest 5 more minutes.

On a flat surface, knead the dough until it’s not sticky (or only slightly sticky, it should not stick to the bowl but it might stick to your fingers because they’re warm).

Divide into 3 equal parts. I like to weigh the dough out to be sure they’re almost the same.

Form one into a ball, then flatten with the palm of your hand into a round that’s 5 inches wide and a little less than 1/2 inch thick. I do this on the counter rather than holding the dough. Repeat with the other dough balls. (hint: the dough is ready when you can flatten it into a ball and the edges do not crack.)

Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil (or brush the grill pan lightly with oil) and add as many rounds as will fit in your skillet (my 10-inch will hold 2). Make sure the pan is hot; this sets the stage for the arepa to puff up in the oven!

Leave them to cook for a few minutes until beginning to brown (maybe 3 minutes), then flip over.

Move the browned arepas to a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffy.

Remove from the oven but leave on the baking sheet to keep warm.

 

Cook the chicken now!

 

To assemble the arepas, cut the bread open about 1/3 of the way along the edge (you can always cut it more if needed). With a dull knife, carefully hollow out the bread edge to edge.

Spread the refried beans on the bottom, then add sliced chicken and plantains. Top with cheese and serve immediately. Enjoy!

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Southwest Salad with Avocado-Cilantro Ranch Dressing

The super easy fried chicken salad I made recently seemed to be pretty popular, so I’m going to beef up my salad menu! I have quite a few I’ll share with all of you!

How about a Southwest salad? Since I always have cilantro and the like in my fridge. (no, really I do!)

You can find the tortilla strips right next to the croutons in your grocery store. They add both color and flavor!

And it sounds super fancy to make your own dressing, but here’s what I do: buy the base pre-made (your favorite ranch dressing) and add ingredients to make it your own. Awesome, right?

Totally. I’m here to help you look as fancy as possible.

By the way, since football season has now started, try dipping your wings in this dressing. Or put it on these tacos. Oh, yes.

Southwest Salad with Avocado-Cilantro Ranch Dressing

  • 1 pound fresh chicken tenderloins or strips (6-8 count)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

for assembly:

  • 1 cup cooked corn kernels
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • lettuce of your choice (I used a bag of the pre-cut butter lettuce, used a little more than half the bag for 2 salads)
  • 1 avocado, halved
  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded Monterey jack or 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • crispy tortilla strips (next to the croutons in your grocery store)

for the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup of your favorite ranch dressing
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (just throw the stems and everything in)
  • juice of 1/2 lime

Make the dressing ahead of time and refrigerate to chill it down. It’ll last a week or so. This recipe makes way too much for two salads, but unless you have one of those mini food processors, this is the only way to get it to blend right! Use it as a dip for wings or a topping for tacos.

Add all ingredients for the dressing to a food processor or blender. Blend continuously until creamy, about a minute. Move to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Heat the butter in a large pan over high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. When the pan’s hot, throw it in. Turn the heat down to medium after 30 seconds, and let cook for 5 minutes per side.

While the chicken cooks, assemble the salad. On 2 large plates, divide enough lettuce to cover the plate. Add the black beans and corn evenly between the two, then place half an avocado on each salad. Sprinkle cheese and tortilla strips.

Add the hot chicken to the salad. Sprinkle with cilantro and dressing. Enjoy!


Black Bean Hummus

Do you love chickpea hummus?  Well here’s any easy version using canned black beans, and everyday pantry ingredients (no tahini!).  Great on tortilla or pita chips and veggies, or as a sandwich spread – just like it’s lighter-hued cousin.

I add in some sour cream for a smooth, spreadable result.  Try adding some fresh chopped cilantro and jalapeno for a kick!

The point is to really blend it well – at least several minutes.  It’ll be smooth and creamy and perfect!

Black Bean Hummus

Yield about 2 1/2 cups.

  • 2-15 ounce cans reduced or no sodium black beans,
  •      rinsed and drained
  • juice of a whole lime
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream

Process all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, scraping down sides as needed, 3-5 minutes.  Serve cold as you would chickpea hummus, or use as a spread on sandwiches.  Enjoy!