From Pernil to Tamales: Stars of ‘Orange is the New Black’ & ‘Looking’ Invite Us to Christmas Dinner

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The holidays are right around the corner, so of course, we’re gearing up for festivities to close the year out right. Celebrations among Latino families and cultures can vary greatly, though — my family’s a Nochebuena bunch, but others save their energy for Christmas morning. But we can all agree that whether you’re prepping for church or poised for posadas, there’s going to be some great food. We asked some of our favorite popular Latino actors to dish on how they celebrate the holidays. So grab some champurrado and read over the drool-worthy details. And happy holidays!


Laura Gomez


Orange is the New Black; working on Hit Women, a Blacklist-like dark comedy series that’s currently in production.

[My family’s from] the Dominican Republic, and we celebrate Nochebuena on the 24th. That’s when we open gifts and have a special family dinner. My mom always hosts the most wonderful New Year’s Dinner Party at our house in Santo Domingo. We have many friends and relatives over and spend a great evening together. The menu tends to be varied and special, and it includes a whole Turkey in the oven (Thanksgiving Style) and Roasted Chicken, several types of salads, Rosemary potatoes and my aunt’s specialty “Arroz Navideño,” which is a sort of rice with walnuts and raisins—the most delicious thing you can imagine—and my personal favorite, Pastel en Hoja, of course. The official chefs are usually my aunt Daysi and my mom. My aunt is a passionate cook.


Paula Garcés


All My Children, Devious Maids; screened Adult Beginners at TIFF this fall.

My familia is from Colombia and Puerto Rico. We celebrate the 24th and open presents at midnight and sing novenas. We also leave some presents for Christmas morning and have a big Christmas breakfast with arepas, quesito, chocolate, huevos con ogado, empanadas and leftovers. Christmas Eve dinner is a typical Colombian/Puerto Rican food with tamales colombianos, empanadas, ham, potato salad, arroz con gandules, lechon, buñuelos, natilla, flan, aguardiente y coquito. My mom, my sister, my niece and I do all the cooking. My whole family comes over all dressed up. We take pics by the tree and the whole house is decorated inside and out. We dance salsa and cumbia; we drink typical Colombian alcohol called aguardiente and Puerto Rican egg nog called coquito and we make toasts for good luck all night long! After dinner I make everyone limbo and I mean everyone—including my 83 year old abuelita. We open presents at midnight and sing novenas by the Nativity scene at midnight. New Year’s Eve is another big fiesta with all kinds of delicious food but we drink Champagne all night long. We become very superstitious! We eat 12 grapes at midnight. My cousins who want to travel go around my block with my suitcases (lol). Everyone wears yellow underwear for good luck, including myself. Every year someone comes up with something new—it’s fun.


Nicholas Gonzalez


Sleepy Hollow, Jane the Virgin; lead voice actor in the 2015 animated show, Bordertown.

[We’re from] San Antonio, Texas. Been there for 3 generations. My family has always celebrated [on] December 25th. In the morning, we wake up and open presents. Then my grandfather comes over with Barbacoa for the family and then we have a big party with all the extended family that night. Our Christmas dinner is done in the form of a potluck. Lots of turkey, smoked turkey and ham. Of course a huge batch of beans, casseroles and a huge array of freshly baked desserts. The men usually BBQ and my mom, grandmother and aunts cook most of the other stuff.


Jessica Pimentel


Orange is the New Black; stars in The Grief of Others which premieres in January.

My family is from La Romana, Republica Dominicana, and [we celebrate] on Nochebuena (December 24th). We tend to keep [dinner] pretty traditional: pernil, arroz y gandules, Pasteles (de platano en hojas), ensalada de guineos/papa and empanadas. All of my aunts have a specialty dish but, for the most part, hats off to Tia Francia who mans the helm.


Melissa Fumero


Brooklyn Nine-Nine; she’s up for a SAG award next month for Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series.

My parents are from Cuba. They immigrated to the US when they were teenagers and met in New Jersey. We celebrate the 24th, or Noche Buena. The 25th we open presents, eat leftovers or Chinese Food, and go see a movie. Christmas Eve dinner is full out Cuban… a whole roast pig that’s been marinating for at least 3 days served with Mojo sauce, yuca with lots of garlic or fried, Cuban bread, tostones & sweet plantains, rice & beans, and lots of wine. Dessert is a mixed bag of Cuban & American treats… cheesecakes, these super-sweet doughnut-like Cuban treats shaped like a pretzel, flan, cookies, and tiramisu. New Year’s Eve growing up we would eat 12 frozen grapes at midnight for good luck. My mom mostly [does the cooking], and some of our cousins would contribute too especially with dessert. When we’re with my husband’s family, his mom, aunt, and a couple of cousins do all the cooking.


Frankie J. Alvarez


Looking; nominated for an Imagen Foundation Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series.

My family is originally from Cuba; my dad hails from Havana, while my mom is from a small town 30 miles west called Artemisa. We call Miami FL home now. [December] 24th is a huge Cuban feast, while the 25th is reserved for giving gifts and all cooking breakfast together. My dad and I are big basketball fans so we usually catch an NBA game or two in the afternoon/evening. The main attraction is the roast pork, cooked in la caja china. We usually have white rice and black beans, steamed yuca with mojo, ensalada de aguacate, and other kinds of deliciousness, all washed down with coquito and rum. Usually it’s a tag team thing between my family and my cousins’ family. That way, everyone has a hand in making dinner special!


Selenis Leyva


Orange is the New Black; snagged a 2014 ALMA Award for Special Achievement in Television.

I’m looking forward to the 24th where we usually — you know, it’s Christmas Eve and so we have the big, big, big dinner, and that’s like our big night — and then New Year’s Eve also. That’s always a good time. My parents are amazing cooks. I’m so blessed to have them with me, healthy and still enjoying the kitchen. So they make the major dishes and I will bring like a couple of side dishes. I’ll do Brussels sprouts, I’ll do garlic mashed potatoes. My dad makes the most amazing turkey ever. It’s so moist and rich, it’s delicious. Also not only is there platano, pasteles, but like yuca is also very Cuban and I could do a yuca, just like Puerto Rican stew. There’s also moro (black rice). For the Anglo side of our family, or as I like to call it “the Italian side” (it’s just because we like pasta), my mother would always make her version of lasagna. I’m sure that if an Italian person tasted it they’d be like, “What’s in this?” And I’d be like, “Sofrito.” You know what I mean? It’s our version of lasagna and it’s absolutely amazing. Everything has sofrito.