Venezuelan Pulled Pork Arepas

Confession: I am absolutely 100% awful at sticking to the gluten-free diet I am supposed to have been on since junior year of college (that’s 2010, people – SEVEN years ago).

I go through phases where I am strict about it that are full of corn tortillas, chick pea based pasta, and tons of veggies. In between, I eat pizza for dinner, make pancakes for breakfast, and drink a nice craft beer after a long run. Everything in moderation, right? Wrong – that second phase is full of nauseous mornings and late night tummy aches, and I’m trying harder each time to avoid those unhealthy habits.

When I first moved to New York, I needed to find a cheap way stick to my new gluten free diet, so I started researching gluten free recipes online. There had to be a way to avoid buying lunch that had less gluten than a PB&J! That’s when I discovered arepas.

Arepas are sort of the equivalent of a tortilla or a piece of sandwich bread. Different countries have different variations of arepas, but I’ve happened to play around with the Venezuelan kind, and truly fell in love with them at one of my old NYC go-tos – Caracas Arepa Bar. You can put literally anything on an arepa, and eat it for any meal. They’re versatile, they’re easy to make, they’re filling, and they’re delicious. Even Mike, who hates corn tortillas, said he loved this corn based meal.

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I hope you enjoy my take on this recipe and have fun making this one yourself!

Arepas:
I made my first arepas based on this recipe from Big Girls Small Kitchen. I’ve made them so many times I’ve been able to tweak it to make my own recipe. Here it is!
1 cup masa harina
1 cup water
1/2 c shredded parmesan
1 tsp salt

It’s a good rule of thumb to start with 1:1 ratio of masa to water, and then add water until the dough is the right consistency. The consistency is hard to describe. You should let the dough sit for a few minutes. If after that, when you try to roll the dough into a ball and flatten it into a tortilla, it doesn’t crack or stick to your hands, you’re at the right spot.

I used to fry my arepas in a pan using vegetable or neutral oil – but I opted to put them on our griddle this time. It was so much less messy just buttering up the griddle and cooking the arepas up. Arepas cook slowly, so it took me about 10 minutes to cook them all the way through.

I like to eat my arepas open faced, but Mike liked his as a sandwich – cutting the arepa in half to create a pocket and stuffing it with the pork.

Pulled Pork:
I have a few pulled pork recipes I like, but none that seemed appropriate for arepas. I used this recipe from Serious Eats with a few changes.
Vegetable oil
2 lb pork tenderloin (can also use pork shoulder, but stay boneless)
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, roasted and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 cup shredded mozzarella (I would have liked to use cotija, but couldn’t find it)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
Salt and Pepper

Cut pork tenderloin into 2 inch pieces. In a cast iron pan, heat vegetable oil on high, until it smokes, and then add the pork and brown on each side, about 10 minutes total. Cook onions and garlic in the same pan until softened.

While the onions and garlic cook, turn the crock pot on high (my highest setting is 4 hours). Add the onions, garlic, and pork to the pot. Add the chopped poblano, chicken stock, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours.

Remove the pork and pull in a separate bowl. Boil down the remaining ingredients into a 1 cup sauce and pour over pork. Season again with salt if needed.

Serve the pulled pork arepas topped with mozzarella and cilantro.

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Enjoy!

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