When I was little, my family would sometimes go to brunch at a fancy hotel restaurant when my dad had colleagues in town. One of my sisters would always order eggs Benedict. And oh man, those were good! I sometimes ordered the Benedict too, but often caved for the waffles piled high with fresh strawberries.
Alas, Eggs Benedict are not exactly the healthiest with all that lovely hollandaise sauce. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t still indulge every once in a while. And once gluten free, I would simply substitute home fries or oven baked potato wedges for the traditional English muffin base.
But now I skip the hollandaise all together. The flavors come through so much more nicely with just a drizzle of delicious, crisp olive oil and tangy balsamic vinegar in lieu of the hollandaise. I don’t think you will miss a thing!
For a little change up, we use smoked salmon, or honey-glazed turkey breast if we don’t have Canadian-style bacon on hand.
Instead of the English muffin, lately we’ve been using arepas (pronounced: Ah-ray-pahs). Arepas are easy to make – you just need to make sure you have the correct flour. Do NOT substitute regular masa harina or corn flour (not corn starch) for the precooked corn flour called for in the recipe. However, some area recipes also add fresh corn to the mix to add a little more texture and enhance the corn flavor. That’s a delicious too!
I was introduced to arepas about 10 years ago while teaching in Chicago. One of my students was from Colombia and his mom made arepas for a class party. Oh man, were they GOOD. Flash forward a few years to my diagnosis, and I started wondering about the arepas. I forgot about them for a little while I was occupied with finishing my Master’s and getting married (yes, on the same weekend…LOL). Then when we moved out to the Pacific Northwest, I began teaching Spanish at the local University. One of my students made another version of arepas again for me (this time a Venezuelan version) and my love of arepas just kept going.
Karen, at Gluten Free Heaven, wrote a wonderful post about arepas. She gives GREAT details about the flour and has some pictures that are going to make you drool. (Just a warning… I thought I was going to bite the screen when I saw her post the first time.) I will forever be indebted to her for reviving arepas at our house. *muaw*!
Shauna, at Gluten Free Girl, also got the arepa-craving moving along further with her post and photos too. Although, the arepas I make are a little different than the ones either of them make. But that is the beauty of arepas – versatile! easy! individual! Piece of cake! (Or Corn cake in this case!)
When I saw their posts, I was reminded how a simple, easy dish can make the world of difference for a gluten-free eater. (And, I’m happy to report, these little babies were devoured by our Chinese family members not once, but THREE times while they were here – at their request. I even sent them home with the recipe and flour in a bag. They made more arepas for my sister-in-law when they arrived in Colorado just a few short days after leaving us. See? It’s an addiction! LOL)
I use equal parts of precooked corn flour, queso cotija (Pronunciation help: “Kay-so” “co-tea-ha”) (Mexican crumbling cheese – sometimes called Queso Anejado) or parmesan and water. The recipe below makes 4 small-ish arepas. Since everything is in equal portions, it is super easy to double, triple or quadruple the recipe to serve large groups (like I did when our family was in town. Arepas for 8? 2 cups of each: precooked corn flour, queso cotija and water).
I will post the Venezuelan version and another with corn if anyone is interested another day. For now – here’s are the recipes for basic arepas and the Healthier Eggs Benedict. (Here’s a version of a recipe with fresh corn in it from Whole Foods.)
The other little benefit? This version of Eggs Benedict doesn’t make me feel like I need to do five more Step Classes to just break even on the calorie count! PHEW!
Gluten free: Arepas
Makes 4 small arepas. (Increase quantities if you want 4 Arepas that can be stuffed for sandwiches, etc)
1/2 cup pre-cooked corn flour (See this Gluten Free Heaven post for pictures of the bags)
1/2 cup crumbled queso cotija or queso anejado (Mexican crumbling cheese) OR parmesan cheese
1/2 cup tepid water
- Mix together all ingredients until a soft dough forms. Divide into 4 equal portions.
- Form the arepas by gently shaping them into round patties about 1/2 inch thick (for Benedict) or thicker (for opening/stuffing for sandwiches). (My students call them “South American edible hockey pucks” if that helps you with the shape idea. LOL)
- Heat a pan with a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat and preheat the oven to 400F.
- Lay the arepas in the pre-heated pan/olive oil on the burner and brown each side (about 3-5 minutes per side).
- Remove the arepas from the pan and place in an oven-proof dish. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
- Serve and eat immediately. (Or follow the Benedict recipe that follows)
Arepas can be served with any topping you desired. When my family was here, I filled the table with the following and everyone made their own area sandwiches: avocado, bacon, turkey, tomatoes, a variety of jams, scrambled and poached eggs, smoked salmon, sour cream, mustard, ham, cilantro, basil, pepperoncinis, etc. (We pretty much emptied the fridge this way of leftovers too. LOL!)
Gluten Free: Healthy Eggs Benedict
Makes 4 Benedict stacks (Serves 2 for brunch)
1 medium ripe avocado
8 slices of Canadian-style bacon, smoked salmon or turkey breast
4 Arepas (see recipe above)
Olive oil, for drizzling
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
- Prepare arepas. While the arepas are baking:
- Poach eggs.
- Remove arepas from oven (when done) and create the Benedict stack. Place an area on the plate. Top with meat of choice, then avocado slices and finish with a poached egg.
- Drizzle the top of the Benedict with good-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.