You may recognize Ana Quincoces as one of the cast members from the Bravo series “The Real Housewives of Miami,” but the mother of two has a fiery passion – for food, that is – that will definitely raise temperatures at this year’s South Beach Food & Wine Festival in Miami Beach, Florida. Quincoces, voted Miami’s hottest chef 2011 by Eater.com, absolutely loves the Cuban food she grew up on – think dishes like ropa vieja, frituras de maiz, empanadas de chorizo and fricase de pollo. These traditional Cuban staples dishes — no fusion here, mind you – are the focus of Quincoces’ second cookbook, “Sabor! A Passion for Cuban Cuisine.” While the Miami native and licensed attorney will be making appearances at several SOBE events – including Michelle Bernstein’s famed Swine & Wine pig roast event at the Biltmore Hotel – here’s Quincoces on the foods she loves (and those she doesn’t!), in her own words. And if reading about her favorite dishes isn’t enough, you can try her recipe for huevos a la malagueña below.
First dish you ever made? The first dish I ever made was chicken a l’orange and it was awful. I remember my father’s face as he tried to put down an entire plate of this culinary disaster.
How did you know you were born to cook? Growing up I loved the feeling that the heart of our home was the kitchen. All important conversations and decisions occurred there. My house was always the venue for gatherings and celebrations and it always involved delicious home cooked meals. I knew I wanted that feeling when I had my own home. My passion for cooking grew from there.
Favorite food memory? I have two. The first has to be a dinner at a restaurant in Big Sur above the clouds enjoying an extraordinary view while indulging in perfectly paired food and wine. A close second is a fish and chips stand on a sidewalk in Notting Hill where my girls and I enjoyed crispy freshly fried cod and chips drenched in malt vinegar while enjoying the Portabello market on a perfect sunny Saturday afternoon.
Worst food memory? I was 8 years old on my uncle’s boat and indulged in one too many guava and cheese pastelitos which I washed down with grape soda. I’d rather not go into details, but suffice it to say it was not a good combination and the smell of either of those things still makes me a little queasy.
Sweet or Savory? I have an insatiable sweet tooth, but with a little heat the combination of both in one dish is the most appealing to me.
Chocolate or Vanilla? If it ain’t brown, it ain’t dessert!
Burger or taco? Burger preferably with blue cheese and bacon.
Who inspires you and why? My daughters are my greatest inspiration. I am in awe of them every single day of my life. Not only do I adore them but I have the utmost respect for them. They are extraordinary young women.
Favorite comfort food? Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.
Three things currently in your fridge at home? I try to keep my refrigerator stocked but even when it’s not, I always have Greek yogurt, diet ginger ale & blackberries.
What food do you hate? Tofu
Finish this thought. A perfect meal is… …one created in my kitchen with the help of my family and friends. What we cook or eat doesn’t matter.
Huevos a la Malagueña (Málaga-Style Eggs)
People rarely think of eggs as a dinner dish, but they really are a great high-protein option. Huevos a la Malagueña originated in Spain and are similar to French coddled eggs. The eggs are served on top of savory sofrito, which provides an unexpected burst of flavor. The addition of ham and shrimp complete the meal with lots of added protein. This dish is as elegant as it is delicious. It also makes a great brunch dish.
18 small shrimp
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup vino seco (dry white cooking wine)
12 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 pound Serrano ham, cut into thin strips
1 cup canned asparagus tips
1/2 cup canned peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bring 3 cups of lightly salted water to a boil in a large pan. Add the shrimp and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the shrimp are opaque. Drain the shrimp and set them aside to cool. Peel and devein the shrimp.
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomato sauce, bay leaf, salt, pepper, paprika, and vino seco. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let the sauce simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Divide the mixture evenly among six 6-ounce ramekins.
Place about 1/4 cup of the mixture into each of 6-ounce ramekins. Layer each dish evenly with ham, shrimp, asparagus, and peas. Divide the remaining tomato mixture evenly among the ramekins. Carefully break 2 eggs into each ramekin and drizzle with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the egg whites are set (completely white). Sprinkle with parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6.