AREPAS WITH QUESO BLANCO AND GUASACACA
The combination of these two flavors is a bit unusual, but it’s one that people in Mexico are sure to love. This recipe combines the creamy texture of queso blanco with the spicy heat of guasacaca sauce for an unexpected taste sensation.
The guasacaca recipe is a traditional Peruvian dessert that combines milk, sugar, and cinnamon.
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Arepas may seem to be ordinary tiny cornmeal cakes, but one taste will have you hooked on their crispy exterior and mushy interior texture. They’re available all throughout Venezuela, filled with a variety of delicious fillings, but I used my favorite combination of fresh handmade cheese and the aptly called guasacaca here. Guasacaca is an avocado-based sauce that is similar to guacamole but has a considerably stronger flavor. White cornmeal differs from yellow cornmeal (also known as polenta) and may be difficult to come by; look for it at Afro-Caribbean stores or online.
Note: You should start this recipe at least 4–5 hours ahead of time, if not the day before, since the cheese requires time to drain and cool.
Methods Explained in Detail
Step No 1
Pour the milk into a large saucepan or stockpot for the queso blanco. Set over a low heat and gradually raise to just below boiling point (85°C/185°F is ideal if you have a thermometer), stirring periodically. Turn off the heat and slowly drizzle in the vinegar, approximately a third at a time, stirring thoroughly in between. Allow for a 5-minute rest period, after which you should have a pan of curds and whey.
Step No 2
Place a clean muslin fabric or cheesecloth over a big bowl or saucepan to line a sieve. Pour the curds and whey into the sieve slowly, stopping to discard the whey as the bowl fills up – there will be a lot of liquid.
Step No 3
Allow to drain for a few minutes until the curds are no longer leaking, then remove any remaining liquid in the dish. Mix in the salt, cumin, and chilies with a fork through the curds. Draw up the edges of the muslin and firmly twist to create a ball, squeezing a bit to press out any residual wet as you go. Allow to cool completely before transferring the queso blanco muslin ball to a clean dish and chilling for several hours or overnight.
Step No 4
To prepare the arepas, whisk together the cornmeal and salt in a large mixing basin. Pour in the oil, followed by the water, stirring constantly to form a firm dough. Allow 30 minutes for resting. To make the guasacaca, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor, except the olive oil, and process until completely smooth. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the engine is running. Check the seasoning and season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill until required, covered with a sheet of cling film plastered to the surface.
Step No 5
Place the arepas dough on the work surface, knead quickly, and then cut into 8 equal pieces. Each piece should be rolled into a ball and then flattened to a 1cm thick disc. Set a large frying pan over medium heat with a sprinkle of oil. Cook for 6–8 minutes, until golden brown, after adding 4 arepas to the pan and covering with a tight-fitting piece of kitchen foil. Cook for another 6–8 minutes, uncovered, on the opposite side. Continue with the last 4 arepas while keeping warm. To serve, split the arepas halfway down the center (as if it were a pita bread) and stuff with the queso blanco and a dollop of guasacaca.
The guasacaca sauce is a sauce that is made from guava, white cheese, and cilantro. It is typically served with arepas.
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