A Taste of Venezuela: Arepas with Pulled Pork, Avocado Chimicurri, and Tajadas

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A Taste of Venezuela: Arepas with Pulled Pork, Avocado Chimicurri, and Tajadas

This recipe is influenced by the bold flavors of Venezuela, combining fluffy arepas with savory pulled pork that is accented by the caramelized sweetness of the tajadas and the fresh kick of the avocado chimichurri sauce. You will definitely put some tender loving care into this meal, but it is guaranteed to delight. Arepas are common in both the Colombian and Venezuelan cultures; however in Venezuela, arepas tend to be thicker in order to stuff with cheese, meat, or anything else that is scrumptious. Today we are making a sort of sandwich with the pulled pork, topped with the tajadas, avocado chimichurri, and queso fresco. On the side we are serving traditional Venezuelan black beans to compliment all the flavors of the arepas. You will need to begin making both the beans and the pulled pork several hours in advance—I recommend either the night before or the morning of when you plan to have your meal.

Ingredients:

Black beans:

  • 16 ounce bag of dried black beans
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsps dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Arepas:

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 4 tbsps of butter, melted
  • 1 tsb salt
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Pulled pork:

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 (4-1/2- to 5-pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce (optional)

Tajadas:

  • 1 Ripe/yellow plantain
  • 1 cup vegetable oil—or as needed (for frying)
  • Paper towels

Avocado chimichurri:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp agave nectar or honey
  • 1/2 to 1 cup cilantro

Instructions:

Black Beans:

  1. Rinse the beans and soak them overnight in water.
  2. Drain the beans, and cover them with fresh water. Add chopped red pepper. Bring the beans to a simmer, and cook them over low heat until they are just tender (about 2 ½ hours.)
  3. cook the onion and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
  4. Add the cumin and the brown sugar to the onions and continue to cook until browned, soft and fragrant.
  5. Once the beans are tender, remove about half of the cooked beans and process them in a blender (or food processor) with the onion mixture. Add the blended bean mixture back to the pot of whole beans. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  6. Continue to cook beans until they are very tender, adding water if necessary or letting excess water boil away, until desired texture is reached.

black beans

Pulled pork:

  1. Place the onions and garlic in an even layer in the slow cooker and pour in the stock or broth. Combine the sugar, chili powder, measured salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 6 to 8 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.
  2. Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the strainer and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside.
  3. If the pork has a bone, remove and discard it. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce, if using, and mix to combine. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, use a spoon to skim and discard the fat from the surface of the strained cooking liquid, and then add 1/4 cup of the liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is just moistened. Taste and season with salt as needed.

pulled pork 

Arepas:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients well, until smooth. Don’t worry if the mixture appears wet. Let mixture rest for about 5-10 minutes, to give the cornmeal time to absorb some of the liquid.
  3. The dough should be smooth and easy to handle, without sticking to your hands.
  4. Take pieces of the dough and shape them with your hands into round disks, about 2 cm thick, and 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter. When shaping the arepas, repair any cracks along the edges with your fingers.
  5. Lightly grease the surface of a skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. Place the arepas into the skillet in batches. Cook until the arepas are lightly browned on each side.
  6. Place the arepas on a baking sheet when you remove them from the skillet. Place them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes to finish cooking the inside of the arepas without burning them). Serve warm.
    1.  If the dough seems dry, you can add a little bit more water. Knead the dough for several minutes and let rest again for 5 minutes.
    2. If the dough is too wet to handle, add a small amount of cornmeal, knead, and let the dough rest for 5 minutes more.

Makes about 8-10 arepas, depending on size

arepas 3

Tajadas:

Tajadas are also known as fried plantains. They are used in a variety of Venezuelan dishes but especially in Pabellón Criollo 

1. Pour the vegetable oil in a large pan and turn on the stove to medium heat, so the oil starts heating up while you prepare the plantains. The oil needs to be significantly hot since we are frying the plantains.
2. Cut the two ends off of the plantain, and then make an incision in the skin of the plantain along the side in order to remove the skin. Cut the plantain in half.
5. Now slice each half of the plantain into 4 slices of about 0.25 – 0.75 inches.   Don’t make them thicker than that.

6. Lay the plantains on the frying pan and begin to fry them until they are golden brown, turning them if necessary, to fry both sides equally. It took me about 2 minutes per side.

7. Remove the tajadas from the pan one by one and lay on top of a paper towel to remove the excess oil.

tajadas 1

Avocado chimichurri: 

1. Add all of the ingredients except for cilantro into a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Add more water if you want the sauce to be less creamy.

2. add the cilantro and blend it into the sauce.

 chimichurri

Once everything is prepared, fill your arepas with pulled pork, a few slices of tajadas and queso fresco, and finally top with the chimicurri.

¡Buen provecho!

Sources:

Blazes, Marian, Ms. “Venezuelan Black Beans.” South American Food. About.com, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.
Blazes, Marian, Ms. “Venezuelan-style Arepas.” South American Food. About.com, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.
Gallary, Christine, Ms. “Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe.” CHOW. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.
“Recipe: Venezuelan Tajadas (Fried Plantains).” Web log post. Venezuelan Cooking. N.p., 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.
“The Surly Vegetarian.” Web log post. The Surly Vegetarian. N.p., 12 June 2012. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.
photography sources:
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