Cuban sandwiches

A Cuban sandwich stuffed with ham, cheese, and pickles is the best way to eat up leftovers.

We Are Never Full
A traditional Cuban sandwich is loaded with honey-roasted ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles and then baked until it is warm and crispy.

Cuba is synonymous with a few things in everyone’s mind, and whether or not you’re a commie, a weak-willed socialist-sympathizing pinko, or even a right-wing pseudo-fascist, there is much to admire about that politically-isolated island nation. Its long and storied colonial history, the amazing preservation of its architecture and fleet of intact 1950s Chevrolet, its magnificent music – most famously heard in Buena Vista Social Club, its many and beautiful beaches, it being the location of a mafia meeting famously portrayed in The Godfather, pt II, and, most significantly to us folks here at We Are Never Full, a myriad of delicious dishes made from the king of meats, pork.

As regular readers will know, we are obsessed with pork, especially roasted pork, so while we’ve yet to make any more than the briefest foray into Cuban food, we definitely intend to compare Lechon Asado Cubano (Cuban Roasted Pork) and Masas de Puerco Fritas (Cuban Fried Pork Chunks) to their Puerto Rican and Colombian counterparts that we have tried, just as soon as our cardiologist deems it safe to do so. In the meantime, we elected to solve our latest leftover roasted pork crisis with Cuba’s other synonymous comestible – the Cuban sandwich. In this case, we used the leftover pork from our Italian-Style Roasted Pork Shoulder with Salsa Verde.

And before you start accusing us of going all Everyday Food on you with our recent spate of unbelievably easy recipes, those of you who’ve never had a Cuban sandwich will quickly learn that as far as hot sandwiches go, this is among the best, regardless of how easy it is to prepare. Among the reasons for it being one of the best sandwiches, the double-hit of pork products probably features most prominently, but the gooey cheese mixed with the crunchiness of warm pickles is a combination which is hard to beat. Add to it that there are no chunks of tomato or hunks of lettuce to cause what Anthony Bourdain calls “tectonic dynamism” between layers of filling when you take a bite, and the cooking process ensures that it is a suitable girth for easy mouth-insertion, the outcome is a delicious, unctuous sandwich that is also a joy to eat.

Now, I’m describing our Cuban sandwiches, and we did quite a lot of research before making them to ensure we were making them at least reasonably authentically, but, as with many famous dishes, there is a whiff of controversy surrounding the ingredients of a sandwich Cubano. Apparently, in Tampa, Florida, it is common to find Genoa salami in your Cubano alongside the roast pork and honeyed ham, whereas in Miami that would be frowned upon. Similarly, in Key West, you’ll often get lettuce and tomato in the sandwich too, though again in traditionalist joints in Miami and Puerto Rico (home to many Cuban emigres) these would be on the side, if served at all. And, finally, lest we be deluged with complaints, we used Dijon mustard instead of the standard yellow mustard, partially because we prefer Dijon mustard, and partially because we didn’t have any yellow mustard at the time.

Cuban sandwich
(makes 2 sandwiches – enough for 4 people)

1 loaf fresh Cuban bread (pan de manteca) or soft baguette-type loaf (in the US, Italian bread could work okay, providing it’s quite soft)
1/2 lb. roast pork, sliced thickly (say, 1/2 inch, 1.5cm thick)
10 slices honey-roast ham
8 slices Swiss cheese
1-2 large pickles, sliced thickly (as above)
2 tablepsoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice loaf open end-to-end and spread one side with mayonnaise and the other with mustard.
Then, arrange roast pork slices on mayonnaise-d side, repeat with ham, then cheese, and finally pickles before putting mustard-coated bread on top.
Cut loaf in half (to make two sandwiches) and wrap loaf in foil. Place on a baking sheet and put your heaviest (oven-proof) iron skillet on top.
Put in the oven and give it 20-30 minutes depending on how crispy you like your bread.
Cut in half again (traditionally, it’s cut into triangles, or on the bias) and serve immediately with your favorite cold beverage.

For more recipes and fun with roasted pork and other wondrous porcine dishes, go to www.weareneverfull/recipes.

Amy and Jonny Seponara-Sills blog at We are Never Full.

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