Taste Testing: Estefan Kitchen

Estefan Kitchen
Authentic Cuban Recipes from the World Renowned Restaurants of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

We all know Gloria and Emilio Estefan make beautiful music together, but did you know that the Estefan family can throw down in the kitchen as well? Believe it or not, Gloria's great-grandfather was a personal chef for two Cuban Presidents, so this lady knows what she's talking about. Even if their music is not your thing, the merits of this book stand on their own.

Originally from Miami, I grew up on papas rellenas, empanadas and, you guessed it—The Miami Sound Machine. Leafing through Estefan Kitchen made me homesick and I decided that I must share these tastes of my childhood with my son. This book has everything from savory appetizers to simple entrées to scrumptious desserts and classic cocktails. The idea of being able to make these sacred foods myself was a powerful one and I took to the task immediately.

The Meal

I decided to make my son one of my childhood favorites, Papas Rellenas. It's messy and takes some time so you'll want to plan ahead. The finished result was fantastic and was very close to what I remember eating as a child in Little Havana. The crunchy exterior was balanced perfectly with the moist and garlicky mashed potatoes and when I hit that sweet and sour combo of the raisins and olives in the picadillo I thought I would die of delight. My 1 and a half year old son showed his approval by gobbling up two baseball sized papas all by himself!

The Pollo Asado was equally unbelievable. The skin came out crispy and flavorful due to the mojo marinade, while the meat, braised in the salsa criolla, practically fell off of the bone when it came out of the oven. This will be my go-to method from here on! Save the sauce you haven't used and apply it to other meats for the rest of the week. I found it worked really well as a glaze on pork and fish.

The Camarones Enchiladas were of a plate licking quality, and they cemented my mother-in-law's eternal love for me. The other bonus to making this dish is that it's inexpensive and requires astonishingly few ingredients. It is also a low-carb option if you omit the rice!

The Natilla was a very simple but rewarding dish to make, but you have to keep it on the stove for much longer than the recommended 2-3 minutes in order to thicken it up to the proper consistency. In the unlikely event that you have leftovers, it would be fantastic in between cake layers with a guava and cream cheese icing!

These recipes have quickly become a staple for me and my family. In making this meal, I came to realize that a good cookbook is like a road map and Estefan Kitchen led me right back home to happy memories of authentic Cuban food from the city that I love.