FCI Menu Project - Venezuelan Food Refined: La Reina Refinada

(The Refined Queen)
The second course from my FCI Menu Project.

La Reina Refinada

La Reina Pepiada, or the voluptuous queen, is one of the most popular arepa sandwiches in Venezuela. Supposedly, this sandwich was named in honor of a Venezuelan Miss World at a time when the term “pepiada” was used to refer to a beautiful, curvy woman. (For a more in depth history click here.) It consists of an arepa stuffed with chicken salad and topped with a few slices of avocado.

Typically, the Reina Pepiada is served on an arepa asada, which is first lightly grilled and then finished in an oven. However, I thought the crunchy texture of the deep fried arepa would provide a better contrast to the soft chicken salad filling. I made these a little bigger and flatter than they would normally be prepared to increase the amount crispy surface area. These discs became the base of an open-faced sandwich of sorts.

Instead of avocado slices, I opted for a version of the Venezuelan avocado salsa, Guasacaca.  This salsa is similar to guacamole, but it is much more acidic, which I thought would make a nice contrast to the creamy richness of the chicken salad and would also complement the tangy and acidic elements at the same time.  Typically, this salsa is served chunky, but here it was transformed into a creamy mousse and served on the side.

I adapted the chicken salad from my Grandmother’s recipe. The version of the recipe my mother sent me years ago calls for only one tablespoon, but I’ve watched my Grandma spoon in almost an entire jar of mustard with no holding back, and I’ve taken a cue from her.

 To finish the dish, I crowned the queen with lightly dressed leaf of red leaf lettuce.

Wine pairing: 2009 Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. 
This Sauvignon Blanc had a balanced acidity and minerality that complemented the acidic elements in the dish. When drank with the food, the brightness of the wine was enhanced and brought out the creamy, round mouthfeel of the wine, which matched the creaminess of the chicken salad nicely.


Yield: 8 servings
Ensalada de Gallina
Venezuelan-style Chicken Salad
(Adapted from my Grandmother’s recipe and from the recipe in Mi Cocina by Armando Scannone.)

½ skinless chicken, (approximately 680g/1.5 lbs or 3 chicken breasts) 
1 L  (34 oz) chicken stock 
water as needed
2 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and roughly diced
125 g (4.4 oz)  carrots, macedoine
125 g (4.4 oz) sweet peas
57 g (2 oz) turnips, macedoine 
60 ml (2 oz) oil
30 ml (1 oz) apple cider vinegar
½ medium granny smith apple, peeled and grated
½  medium onion, grated
90 ml (3 oz) whole grain mustard 
90 ml (3 oz) mayonnaise 
½  Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

For the Arepas Fritas
(Adapted from recipe on the package.)
Makes 8 medium sized arepas

592 ml (20 oz) water
350 g (12 oz) P.A.N white corn meal
1 tsp salt
1 L (34 oz) cooking oil, or as needed to fill deep-fryer
For the Guasacaca Mousse
(Adapted from recipe in Mi Cocina by Armando Scannone.)

340 g (12 oz) avocado, diced and pit reserved
125 g (4.4 oz) tomatoes, emonder and diced
100 g (3.5 oz) onion, roughly diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
28 g (1 oz) red bell pepper, roughly diced
57 g (2 oz) green bell pepper, roughly diced
½ small jalapeno pepper, diced (ribs and majority of seeds removed)
½ Tbsp parsley, chopped
60 ml  (2 oz) apple cider vinegar
120 ml (4 oz) oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

For the Garnish
Red leaf lettuce 
Apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper


For the Ensalada de Gallina
1. Season the half-chicken or chicken breasts and place in a pot. Add chicken stock, topping off with water if needed to make sure the meat is fully covered. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer.  Allow chicken to cook through until it’s tender and easy to pull apart. (Approximately 45-60 min if the chicken has bone in). Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside to cool. 

2.  Once chicken is cool enough to handle, shred by hand into small pieces.  Set aside to continue cooling.

3. Place potatoes in a pot, bring to a boil, and cook through.

4. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the carrots, turnips, and peas separately (à l’anglaise.) Shock and drain well. Set aside for service.

5. Whisk together the apple cider vinegar and the oil to create a vinaigrette.  Combine the grated apples and onions and hold in the vinaigrette to keep apples from oxidizing.

6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mustard and mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, all of the cooked vegetables, and the apple and onion mixture. Gradually add the mustard/mayonnaise mixture until all ingredients are evenly coated. Adjust the seasoning.

8. Reserve salad in the refrigerator and hold for service. Best is prepared a day in advance.

For the Arepas Fritas
1. Fill deep-fryer with oil and preheat to 375°F/190 °C. (If no deep fryer is available, you can use a heavy-bottomed pot filled with enough oil to cover the arepas.)

2. Combine the water and salt in a large bowl.

3. Slowly add the white corn meal.

4. Knead until smooth. Taste dough for seasoning.

5. Roll the dough into little balls by hand, and flatten into discs.

6. Add the arepa discs to the deep fryer in batches, and cook until golden brown. 

7. Transfer arepas to plate lined with paper towels to drain off excess oil.

8. If not using immediately, arepas can be held in a warm oven for service.

For the Guasacaca Sauce
1.  Combine avocado, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, and parsley in a blender and begin to process.  Slowly add the combined vinegar and oil and continue to process until a thick, smooth, creamy consistency is achieved.

2. Transfer to a separate container with the reserved avocado pit.  Cover or seal container and reserve for service.

For the Garnish
1. Wash and trim lettuce to roughly match the diameter of the arepas.

2. Dress lettuce very lightly with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

For Service

1. Place one of the arepa discs off-center on the plate.

2. Mound a generous scoop of the chicken salad on the arepa.

3. Top with one or two leaves of lettuce.

4. Garnish plate with the guasacaca mousse. 

For a history on arepas,  see next post.
For a video tutorial on how to make arepas, click here.

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