Arepas de Queso con Huevos Escalfados y Perico
I find an excuse to visit the Publix near my mother’s house almost every day that I’m in Miami. And it’s not for the daily free chocolate chip cookie their Danish bakery has for every child (and shameless adult) who asks – though that doesn’t hurt. When every recipe I attempt in New York turns into a scavenger hunt or compromise, I love the everydayness of seeing these things in a large chain grocery store. Most markets have strong Caribbean or Central American sections, but only in Miami do you see Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and the West Indies represented as well. It’s like shopping in the a pan-Latin future as imagined by dancing dolls of It’s a Small World.
The downside is that I overbuy only because I can. I don’t spend enough time home when I’m home, so what I don’t use gets thrown in my suitcase if it’ll keep, or frozen until my next trip. One year, my luggage was so weighted down with ingredients that when my mother called me at the gate to ask if I’d gotten everything on I told her not to worry – I’d just taken my clothes out. This December to avoid the usual check-in panic, I spent the last couple of days in Miami cooking a mishmash of holiday leftovers and whatever I’d picked up along the way.
Admittedly, it wasn’t all worth repeating. The one really good thing thing to come out if were these arepas de queso. Instead of the generic farmer’s style cheese I usually find, I tried the Venezuelan queso llanero I picked up (though it was technically an Argentinian market). Llanero falls somewhere between a firm queso fresco and aged cotija, so I shredded it and added it to the mix instead of keeping it on the side, reminding me of the ones my father made for me when I was a little girl with Parmesan (still my favorite).
I also remembered that I hadn’t made perico – scrambled eggs blended with a tomato sofrito – in a long time. I decided that when I got back to Brooklyn, I’d change the scrambled eggs for poached and cook down the tomatoes separately to top the arepas. It was simple enough but it took me awhile to find the masarepa. The hold-out grocery store on Smith Street that still stocked Caribbean products was boarded up and closing down. Another indication of changing demographics in Brooklyn. This meant a special trip to the lower east side to pick up what I needed. Next time I’ll just take my chances curb-side.
Poached eggs are hit or miss for me and I never considered serving them at brunch. Justin Chapple’s “Insanely Easy Way to Poach a Dozen Eggs at Once” really is exactly that. The eggs are also easy to prep beforehand then place in the oven with the arepas for the last ten minutes so it’s all ready at once. There’s no reason not to.
For the arepas:
1½ cups hot water
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon melted butter plus more for greasing the skillet
1 cup masarepa, preferably Harina P.A.N., white or yellow
½ cup llanero cheese, shredded (guayanés or cotija cheese)
For the tomatoes:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
½ white onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, peeled
6 large eggs
Standard muffin pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
Combine the water, sugar, salt and melted butter in a mixing bowl. Combine the cornmeal and shredded cheese. Pour into the water in a steady stream, whisking constantly to avoid clumps. Knead until well mixed and set aside to rest, about 5-10 minutes.
Divide the dough in 6 pieces (about ¼ cup) and shape each piece into a ball. Using the bottom of a flat measuring cup or mixing bowl, lightly press down on the dough to form a disc about 1-1 ½” thick.
In a cast iron or heavy skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add the arepas and cook until lightly golden and crisp, about 4-6 minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
In the meantime, prepare the tomatoes. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sautée until soft and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until they begin to break down, about 8 additional minutes. Stir in the cilantro off heat and season to taste.
Prepare the poached eggs. Pour about 1 tablespoon of water in each muffin cup. Gently drop an egg in each cup. Place the in the oven alongside the arepas and cook until the eggs are set, about 8 to 10 minutes.
To serve, top each arepa with the tomatoes and onion followed by a poached egg. Sprinkle with additional cilantro, sea salt, or black pepper to taste.
Makes 6 arepas