I will be up front with you, I have never been to Cuba. I had to get that off my chest. But that does not mean that I have not sampled Cuban food throughout my lifetime, or better yet food from the southern part of Florida. Ropa vieja, tamales, and fried plantains are only a few, but one always stood out in terms of simple, and comforting food. The Cuban sandwich.
What makes a Cuban sandwich so go is only to be said when you crunch your way into toasted, pressed sandwich. It might be the cheese, it could be the pickles, but I believe overall, it is the combination of all ingredients that make a Cuban sandwich so delicious. The Cuban sandwich is basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a few extra ingredients, and cooked just a bit differently from a traditional grilled cheese. As the Cuban sandwich traditionally calls for Cuban bread (hard to find in the Milwaukee area), I used a day old loaf of bread from Jimmy Johns (48 cents) and it pressed and toasted really, really well. Let’s get started.
Ingredients: [Print this Recipe]
- 1 loaf of Jimmy John’s bread, cut into 8″ slice (other options, french roll, or seedless hoagie)
- Sliced ham (I used Wisconsin’s finest Sunday boiled ham, thinly sliced)
- Slow roasted pork cooked in mojo (see below)
- Dill pickle slices
- 2 slices of Baby Swiss Cheese, per sandwich
- Mustard (optional)
Ingredients for Pork:
- 3 lbs of pork shoulder
- 1 head of garlic, skins removed, smashed
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 1 cup of orange juice
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the pork, mix all of the ingredients, excluding the pork, in a bowl. Take a knife, and create large slits into the pork. Add the pork to a large, sealable plastic bag and dump the marinade into the bag. Massage the pork, seal, and let it marinate for at least four hours. When you are ready to cook, you can throw the pork, and marinade into a slow cooker, or roast in the oven until cooked.
Start by getting everything ready, and set it out on the counter for at least 30 minutes. Everything should be room temperature, and I mean everything. This allows everything to cook together nicely and get evenly cooked.
When you are ready, I recommend getting heavy cast iron skillets out if you have them. The goal is to create a heavy press, and cast iron not only heats really well, but it has the weight you are looking for to press the sandwich.
Build your sandwich by adding the pickles to the bottom layer, or if you want to use mustard, spread a light coating of mustard before adding the pickles, then top with roasted pork, ham, and top with cheese. Add about one tablespoon of butter to the skillet that is on medium-low heat. Take the sandwich and massage it into the butter. Take another tablespoon of butter and spread it on the top part of the bread. Lay another cast iron skillet on top of the sandwich, and carefully press down. If you do not have the second skillet, you could wrap aluminum foil around a brick, and use that as your press. Be creative, but find a clean, heavy pot or pan to lay on top of the sandwich.
Leave the sandwich alone for a few minutes, however monitor the heat. You definitely do not want to burn the bread, so lower the heat a bit if you are concerned. The goal of the sandwich is to build an amazing crust and have the cheese melt. After a few minutes, flip the sandwich over, add the skillet back to the top of the sandwich, give a little press, and cook another few minutes. The sandwich is done when the cheese is melted, and your crust is complete. You know the crust is complete when you tap on the sandwich and you get that sound. You’ll know the sound, and it is a beautiful one at that.
Take the sandwich, let it rest for a few minutes, then slice on a diagonal. The result is everything, and a bit more. The exterior is so wonderful, and biting into it you will know first hand why this sandwich is really great. It could be the combination of flavors, or it could be the balanced textures. Whatever it is, the Cuban sandwich is a must make, and what a better time to make one then today or tomorrow! Enjoy.