Chicken and Chorizo Arepas with Chimichurri
Reina pepiada, a rich combination of chicken, avocado and mayonnaise, is a popular Venezuelan filling for hearty, patty-shaped arepas. The filling combinations are endless, however, so have fun experimenting with your favorite meats and cheeses. If you can’t find Harina P.A.N., the popular Venezuelan brand of cornmeal for arepas, use any brand of precooked cornmeal, but be sure to start with only 1 cup water for each 1 cup corn flour, as grinds can vary slightly.
For the red chili-cilantro chimichurri sauce:
- 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped green onion
- 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 tsp. white vinegar
- 2 bay leaves, finely crumbled
- 1 tsp. seeded and coarsely chopped red or green chili, such as jalapeño or serrano
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
For the chicken filling:
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 large ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup good-quality mayonnaise
- 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
For the arepas:
- 2 cups precooked white cornmeal, such as Harina P.A.N. or ArepArina
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 lb. pork chorizo sausages, preferably South American or Mexican
To make the chimichurri sauce, in a food processor, combine the cilantro, parsley, green onion, lime juice, vinegar, bay leaves, chili, salt, and pepper and process until the mixture is minced, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the olive oil. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or until ready to serve.
To make the chicken filling, in a saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl. Add the chicken to the pan and stir in the parsley, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, finely shred the chicken and add to the bowl with the onion mixture, along with any remaining juices. Stir to mix, then set aside and let cool. Add the avocado, mayonnaise and mustard and stir gently to mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Preheat an oven to 200°F.
To make the arepas, in a bowl, stir together the cornmeal and salt. Add 2 cups water and stir until all of the cornmeal is moistened, adding up to 4 Tbs. more water, 1 to 2 Tbs. at a time, as needed. Cover and let stand for about 2 minutes. Using your hands, knead the dough in the bowl until smooth and no longer sticky, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Dampen your hands and roll the dough into a log about 8 inches long. Cut into 8 equal pieces, then form each piece into a ball. Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, flatten into a disk about 3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.
In a large fry pan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add half of the arepas and cook until a light crust forms on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat to cook the remaining arepas.
Meanwhile, remove the chicken filling from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Heat a small fry pan over medium heat. Arrange the chorizo slices in the hot pan and cook, turning as needed, until lightly golden on both sides, about 3 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then transfer to a bowl, add 1 Tbs. of the chimichurri sauce and toss to coat.
Cut the arepas in half horizontally. Fill each one with the some of the chicken filling and chorizo slices, drizzle with some of the chimichurri sauce and serve. Or, arrange the cut arepas on a platter with the fillings alongside and have diners fill their own arepas. Pass the remaining chimichurri at the table. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Latin Cooking, by Patricia McCausland-Gallo, Deborah Schneider & Beverly Cox (Oxmoor House, 2010).