So I was mildly amused at the small but noticeable traffic spike I experienced this past weekend, presumably because so many people thought I might have posted something in honor of International Bacon Day. Two things.
1. I love you. But I am not your goddamn bacon hero.
2. Every day is International Bacon Day. Amateurs.
I was actually pretty busy this past weekend, in between a refreshing mini-road trip to Bloomington, Indiana (which is a long separate post in and of itself) and my perpetual weekend struggle to maintain an appropriate Nap to Household Chores ratio. I did find time, however, to do my favorite two culinary things: finding new and improved ways to deliver pork products to my mouth, and cooking things that I like saying.
We’ve talked about this last one, haven’t we? Seriously. I am all about John Dory, manchego cheese, cooking stuff “en papillote,” maybe because cooking and eating for me are often, in a sense, literary events as much as gastronomic ones – I am mindful of the “sound” of things. Or, in a more pedestrian sense, I hear about a food that sounds interesting and I try it.
Anyway, two recipes. You will notice a couple of similarities. Both are South/Central American corn-based “bread” products which are pan-cooked and designed to be topped or stuffed with the tasty goodness of your choice.
And both have awesome names.
In order to make arepas taste their best, you absolutely have to trill the “r.” And watch Mark Bittman’s recent episode of The Minimalist, where he pays tribute to their Venezuelan origins and whips up a batch that looks almost impossibly tasty. Reading the actual recipe might also help.
Julie and I had a conversation about Mark Bittman’s recipes a few days ago, which is germane to this recipe. I don’t want to misrepresent what she said, but one thing we wound up agreeing on is that he sometimes presents things as being very simple and straightforward when a great deal of care or attention or technique is required. This is a problem with a lot of recipe writers (including me), I think… one reads a recipe and thinks “is that wording particularly important?” Does “turn the heat to low” mean “lower it to a simmer” or does it mean, “almost but not quite turn the heat off.”
It used to be that recipes were basically just ingredients lists plus a line like “cook in the expected way.” Cookbooks were written for people who knew how to cook. Now you’re never sure. I read a recipe and think to myself “okay is that instruction meant to be followed to the letter or is that just general advice to someone who doesn’t know how to sweat vegetables?”
Anyway, arepas. Make them! But make sure to allow the “batter” to hydrate adequately, and corn takes longer to absorb liquid than does wheat flour.
But YUM. The combination of corn/scallions/cilantro is wonderful here, so green and sweet and verdant. I really liked them.
Especially because I cut one open and added bacon to it.
And you know what’s better than arepas? Papusas!
These are Equadoran, easy to make, infinitely variable, and just about the greatest thing ever.
This recipe is SO easy:
1 cup Masa Harina
1/2 cup plus a couple of tablespoons of VERY HOT water
1/2 t salt.
Whisk the salt into the corn flour, and then add the water, stirring rapidly to prevent clumping, and continue stirring for a second until all the water has been absorbed. Let the dough sit for ten minutes. It should be wet but not sticky.
To cook a papusa, take a small ball of the dough, punch a little hole in it with your thumb, stuff with savory goodness (in my case bacon and cheese) and close the hole. Sear in a hot skillet over a little bit of cooking oil.
Again, the caution here, is that the dough is tasty if a bit bland. When it fries it becomes sweet and crunchy. MMMM. Try to maintain a decent ratio of missile to payload. Manage that ratio and you might have the greatest thing ever.
Oh – one baco-shoutout. The Cardamom Addict, whose blog of the same name I’ve come to really enjoy lately, flattered me by mentioning me in her 9/5 post. You should all become big fans of her savory prose and tantalizing recipes.
Anyway, Bacon Day, Labor Day, whatever, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend.