What does an arepa de huevo, a fried corn cake and egg sandwich, have to do with Chanukah? The obvious connection is that you fry the arepa in oil.
As the story goes, the Maccabees celebrated their victory over Syrian oppressors almost 200 years before the birth of Jesus by rededicating the Temple, which the Syrians had destroyed. When the Jews lit a jar of oil as part of that re-dedication, miraculously, it lasted for eight days. We now eat fried foods during Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of that candle oil lasting eight days.
Chanukah (or Hanukkah) is really a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar. For many American Jews, it has become the Jewish Christmas, featuring gift giving and joyous celebrations. Taken in that vein, Chanukah is all about materialism and assimilation. However, its real meaning centers on re-dedicating ourselves to working together to find light in a dark time and fighting for religious freedom for all. And for me, the arepa de huevo is a great way to celebrate the real meaning of the holiday, not just the simple association between fried food and oil.
This year has seen too much darkness. Too many people spew hatred and anti-Semitism. Worse yet, some do more than talk. Violence is increasing – against immigrants, as well as against Jews and other minorities. Making Latin American food for Chanukah is my symbolic culinary light in this dark time. It is my way of saying “welcome” to all and proudly proclaiming my Jewish heritage at the same time.
I learned to make the arepa de huevo from my son, Liam.
While it is parents who typically teach cooking skills and recipes to their children (and not vice versa), I’m fine doing the reverse. After all, it was my daughter Eleanor who taught me how to make crêpes the authentic, French way. When Liam and his husband Kevin came back from a recent trip to Colombia, they were brimming with enthusiasm for the country, its people, and Colombian food.
I think arepas particularly caught their imagination because in Medellín their Colombian host made arepas for them. It’s not just the taste of homemade food that is so special, it’s the memories and the stories that go with it. In this case, Liam and his husband were so enamored of their home cooked arepas that they brought back the special pan used for making grilled arepas and bought the right type of cornmeal to make both grilled and fried arepas.
Arepas are small cornmeal discs that look similar to small pita breads. You can grill, bake, or fry them to cook the cornmeal. The ones below are grilled (top right), fried lightly (top left) and fried twice – and a bit too dark – as an arepa de huevo. I did not bake any of ours.
Liam and Kevin enjoyed grilled arepas slathered with butter and Colombian queso fresco (similar to the Mexican version of that cheese) as well as the fried corn cake and egg sandwich known as arepa de huevo.
Liam made these arepa de huevo for us on Thanksgiving morning. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate being together than to cook together. As my beloved prepared the turkey to go into the oven, Liam showed me how to make these delicious treats.
If you can, serve the arepa de huevo while it is still warm. Slightly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, it melts in your mouth. This traditional version is mild, but if you like your eggs with hot sauce, go ahead and add it when you put the egg inside. Mild or hot, it’s my idea of a perfect breakfast, brunch or lunch sandwich.
I’m already toying with how I could turn it into a yummy appetizer too. How about adding cheese and olives to the egg, cooking it until the yolk is set (or mixing the egg before adding it to make it more like scrambled eggs once it’s cooked), then cutting it into wedges? Or skipping the egg and adding caramelized onions? Of course, without eggs I’ll have to rename it as the “de huevo” won’t apply. In any event, there is no end to the variations I can imagine on this theme.
Tips for Making Arepa de Huevo: Fried Corn Cake & Egg Sandwich
- Which kind of cornmeal to use? Arepas require pre-cooked or instant cornmeal. You can’t use “regular” cornmeal, known as masa harina. It won’t puff up, resulting in a dense arepa that is raw in the middle. I found two brands of precooked or instant cornmeal. Both pre-cooked (preconcida) Goya masarepa and harina PAN (masa instantánea), were in my local Giant food store. Apparently there is a third type that I haven’t seen, Maseca Instantánea de maíz: Instant corn masa flour. Here is a good explanation of the difference in the cornmeals. We used harina PAN.
- Making the Arepa – Liam is a natural at flipping the arepa, gently but firmly, from hand to hand. That action turns a small ball of dough into a thick pancake ready to grill or fry. Check out his technique.
(BTW – He chose the background music that played while we cooked. The voice is that of countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo.)
- Frying the arepa in oil – Although you can “eyeball” it, judging the temperature of the oil is tough to get right. The oil has to be sizzling hot but not smoking. If it’s not hot enough, the arepa will absorb the oil. If it’s too hot, the arepa will burn and the oil will smoke up your kitchen. Using an instant read thermometer to check the oil temperature is the best way to assure that you get it right.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month features holiday recipes. (Although my own recipe is more of a breakfast, brunch or lunch sandwich, as mentioned above, if you cook the egg inside so it isn’t runny, you can slice the arepa de huevo into wedges and serve it as an appetizer.) Our host this month is Liz who blogs at That Skinny Chick Can Bake.
Old Fashioned Holiday Recipes
- Arepa de Huevo: Fried Corn Cake & Egg Sandwich – Mother Would Know
- White Chocolate Eggnog Martini – The Redhead Baker
- Spiced Meatballs in Tomato Sauce – From a Chef’s Kitchen
- Homemade Crescent Rolls – Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Chocolate Truffle Mousse – That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Cranberry Apple Pie with Grand Marnier Whipped Cream – Creative Culinary
Arepa de huevo
These fried corn cakes with an egg inside are a delicious treat anytime of year or for any reason. But as they are fried, they are especially appropriate for Chanukah, when fried foods are traditional.
- 1 cup masarepa or instant masa
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt Plus a bit more for adding with the egg.
- 1/4 cup canola, corn, or similar flavorless oil
- 4 eggs
- freshly ground pepper
Stir masarepa or instant masa and salt together. Add 1 cup water and mix into a smooth pasty consistency. Form it into a ball and set aside, covered, for 5 minutes.
Heat oil to 350 degrees F. It should be quite hot, but not smoking. Break the eggs into separate measuring or other cups, or break them one at a time into a single measuring or other cup.
Divide dough into fifths. Take 1/5th (a ball between golf and baseball size) and work it into a thick disc about 5-6-inches round. Toss it between your hands and at the end, using a bit of water, smooth out the edges. (See video earlier in this post.)
Fry the arepa. Oil should come up to the top, but not cover the disc. When golden, turn it over and fry the other side. Once done, let it cool slightly on a paper towel.
Once it is cool enough to handle, make a several inch slit in the top of the arepa. Pour a raw egg into the arepa, letting the egg slide down into the pouch created when the arepa puffed up while frying. Add salt and pepper as you would if you were frying the egg alone.
Seal up the slit with a bit of the remaining 1/5th of the dough - four portions go for the four arepas, and the fifth is divided into fourths for sealing up the slits on the 4 arepas. After confirming that the oil is still at 350 degrees F, refry the arepa, so as to cook the egg inside and to cook the dough used to reseal the slit. This should take about 2-2 & 1/2 minutes per side or 4-5 minutes total. The longer you cook the arepa, the harder the egg will be. If you prefer the yolk fully cooked, aim for about 5 minutes.
To make a sweet arepa, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to the dough at the same time as you add the salt.