She may be best known as a queen of Cuban music—and surely as the first woman to wear an authentic bata cubana and dance a conga on American prime time television—but at home, and amongst her family, Gloria Estefan is just as well-known for…her pancakes? Yes, the Miami-based super star is passionate about home cooking and food, whether it’s Latin or not. Indeed, it was more than two decades ago that she and husband Emilio opened their first restaurant, Larios on the Beach, a nostalgic culinary homage to the Cuban cooking they both grew up eating. Larios is still going strong, and since then the couple has opened four more eateries called Bongos Cuban Café. The restaurants will be participating in this weekend’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, by far America’s most Hispanic-flavored food festival. Below is Gloria in her own words on the food the she adores, plus a recipe for her famous camarones enchilados (Cuban-style shrimp creole) that’s a staple at all of her restaurants.
First dish you ever made? Pancakes. And I must say, in my family, I am famous for my pancakes!
Favorite food memory? Watching my grandmother cook when I was a child is always one of my fondest memories. I only wish I would have written down the recipes to have them now.
Worst food memory? I have a bad memory from my childhood of getting really sick on a hotdog, and to this day I can’t even look at one.
Sweet or savory? I’ll take both. I especially like it together. M&M’s and popcorn are a hit for me.
Chocolate or vanilla? Oh that’s easy: I’m a chocolate fan for sure. Give me chocolate and I’m happy.
Burger or taco? I’ll have both. I like to say I have a Latin heart and an American brain.
Who inspires you and why? My family inspires me to be the best person and my fans inspire me to be the best artist.
Favorite comfort food? Another easy one. Good Cuban for sure. My go-to dish is fricase de pollo.
3 things currently in your fridge at home: Pre-made Crystal Light. (We call it cosa roja.) Sliced turkey and guava jelly.
What food do you hate? I’m not one for dried fruit.
Finish this thought. A perfect meal is…
…one served outside under the stars at my house in Vero Beach with my family and friends around the table.
Gloria’s camarones enchilados (Cuban-style shrimp creole)
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried oregano
A pinch of ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 of a large white onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, stem, veins and seeds removed, and finely diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 pimento stuffed Spanish olives
3 lb large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, salt, oregano and cumin.
2. Make a sofrito. In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium high heat until it becomes fragrant. Add the onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and green bell pepper, stirring to incorporate, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the onions become translucent. Add the white wine and gently stir. Stir in the seasoned tomato sauce, bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium low. Add the olive and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Add the shrimp to the sauce, and continue cooking for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring a few times and turning them over with a pair of tongs half way through, until they are fully done.
4. Divide the shrimp into four small plates and top with plenty of sauce. Makes 4 servings.