Post # 266 A Sandwich Not From Cuba?, Maybe

June 25, 2014 at 11:09 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

“What did you get?” my friend asked as I sat down, brushing away some of his peanut shells.  We were at one of my favorite hamburger places.  Not a fast food joint, but it served it’s fresh made food fast and hot.  And everything was made from fresh ingredients with no fillers or chemicals.  They even posted on a sign about where the potatoes came from they made their fries (fresh to order!) everyday.

“I got a double with extra cheese, mustard, and extra pickles.” I replied.  I like a good burger with a tangy kick.

He chuckled and shook his head.  “It’s impossible that you don’t like a Cuban sandwich.” he said.

“What’s that?”  I was puzzled, never having heard of that sandwich before.

“Really?  You don’t know?  A cook like you?”

My mouth was full of hamburger and fixings so I just shook my head.  There’s nothing like that first bite of burger when it’s hot and fresh and full of things you like.

“I’ll have to make you one sometime.  Next time you make a pork roast, let me know.  I’ll use the leftover to make us a Cuban sandwich.”

I reach for a fry, nearly but not quite burning my fingers they were so fresh.  “What’s in it?”

“It’s a grilled sandwich with ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, dill pickles, mustard.  It’s really very good.  It’s basically the same kind of sandwich you’re eating now.”

I glanced at my burger.  Yup, meat, cheese, mustard, dill pickles.  It all fit.  And it sounded pretty good.

“I’ve got a pork roast in the freezer.  Wanna do this tomorrow?”

He grinned through his beard.  “Sure.  Let’s say around 4.”

“Want me to bring anything else?  Chips?  Dip?  Wine?”

He waved away all offers.  “I’ll take care of everything else.  Just bring the roast pork, seasoned well.”

We both turned back to our lunch burgers and fries.

A traditional Cuban sandwich, I found out,  consists of Cuban bread, roasted pork slices, swiss cheese, thinly sliced ham, yellow mustard, and dill pickles grilled in a press.  The bread is halved and the ingredients are layered inside.  Sometimes mayonnaise is added.  My friend didn’t have a press.

“I just use a heavy brick wrapped in foil,” he said.  “Then I put a heavy skillet on top.”

The sandwich is grilled 2-3 minutes each side until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted and brown.  It’s delicious!

cuban sandwich

I found out that the brick/skillet solution to the standard sandwich press is actually not only well-known, but is almost the traditional way to make this sandwich since it helps to flatten the bread to keep the sandwich together.

Like many foods, the origin of the sandwich is debatable.   It first became very well known about a hundred years ago in Florida among the Cuban community, sugar worker and cigar makers.  It was a quick evening snack, originally.  The ingredients are pretty standard, and the sandwich in this form is found in Cuban communities all over the country.  That tells me that the sandwich originated in Cuba rather than Florida.  But it’s not worth a huge debate.  There are some minor differences from area to area.  Some places add salami; some places shred the pork rather than slice it; some places use french or italian sandwich rolls.  But the primary ingredient is always roast pork.

When I ate my first one at my friend’s house, we ate potato chips and canned baked beans on the side.  He told me these were pretty standard, along with cole slaw.  I don’t like cole slaw and he knew that.  Over the next several years, before I moved from that area, we enjoyed the Cuban sandwich, or Cubano, as it’s sometimes called (also mixto) several more times.  It’s a very good meal.  Partner/Spouse has made it once or twice, as well.

Enjoy!

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4 Comments

  1. A Cuban is much like a Reuben ( didn’t intend to rhyme there ) in that you don’t have to be too specific with the ratio of ingredients to make a killer sandwich. I made one once years ago for an ex-girlfriend based upon what I saw on the Food Network and it was KILLER. Also , Panera recently had a Cuban Panini that was amazing with a side of soup..
    I was recently at a Cuban place in the Bronx and was tempted to order a “Cuban sandwich” … but opted to look too much like ” that white guy”.

    • So what did you order?

      • I actually wasn’t all that hungry so I ordered some mushroom quesadilla appetizer. She ordered her favorite ( the name of which I don’t recall) but I tried some. It was really tasty and reminded me of an eggplant parmesan , but with a Carribean twist to it. I told her I want to go back next time when I have an appetite so I can order something more ” authentic”

      • When I was in Havana, we used to get these lunch boxes, I think they were called “carnitas.” There was about a cup of seasoned rice, some grilled vegetables, and some sort of meat, whatever you wanted. I usually did beef, chicken, or pork, but one day, one of my coworkers got the lobster. For seven bucks, she got two huge lobster tails along with the rest. She couldn’t even finish eating it all. That was pretty good stuff.


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