Oh, the Cuban Sandwich. If I had to rank my favorite sandwiches, the Cuban (more specifically MY Cuban) would probably make the top 5. It is just a perfect combination of meaty, cheesy, gooey, mustardy loveliness. And the ingredients are relatively simple… Ham, roast pork, cheese, pickles, mustard, and bread.
It’s not entirely known when the Cuban was invented, but there is some evidence that it goes back to the turn of the century. It apparently was very popular in sugar mills, where vendors would set up shop and serve these “mixto” sandwiches to the mill workers for a quick bite.
When I’m not making my own version, my favorite one is at Kaya in the Strip District in Pittsburgh PA.
It’s one of those things where I SAY that I’m going to order something else every time that I go…and then I always get the Cuban.
Ok. Ready for the simplicity that is the Cuban sandwich?
Bread – The best to use is obviously Cuban bread. There’s a special variety called “pan de agua.” Here’s a description: “This bread is longer and thinner than a typical bakery loaf and slightly under baked so that when it arrives from the bakery the crust is only lightly browned. This allows the sandwich to spend more time on the plancha (griddle) without getting overly brown. The result is a sandwich that is golden brown and crunchy.” If you can’t get it you can use French or Italian bread. But in my opinion the best at your disposal is ciabatta.
Ham – Roast ham or sliced ham from the deli. Without any of the flavorings (eg, honey baked).
Roast pork – Same thing. If you have the time make your own…I will eventually include my recipe.
Cheese – Swiss or provolone
Mustard – It must be whole grain. Well, it doesn’t have to be…but it should! I am partial to Maille. You can use yellow mustard in a bind.
Pickles – Sliced kosher dill pickles.
Slice the ciabatta rolls and spread with the mustard. Add your ham, pork and cheese slices. Easy, right? Now it’s actually the WAY that you cook it that makes the Cuban so fun. There are several things that you can do:
The traditional way is to use a plancha, which literally means “grilled on a metal plate.” Think panini press without the ridges. But if you don’t have one, have no fear…
A panini press. Fine. Quick and easy. Grilled in a skillet. On the grill (my preferred way). Over a coal fire.
But the real secret is the pressing. You want to thin the sandwich out by about one-third. If you’re using a panini press this is easy. If not, you have to be more creative. Butter both the top and bottom of the sandwich (use melted butter to brush, or better yet there are parts of Cuba where they use garlic butter). Then when cooking place a brick or heavy cast iron skillet on top of the sandwiches. When using the grill I also like to wrap the sandwich in aluminum foil.
When finished (maybe 15 minutes…you’ll know, the cheese will be nice and melty) cut diagonally. You can serve the pickles on the side or place them on (you can put them on before or after cooking; I prefer them to be cool and crispy so I put them on after). You can serve them like Kaya does…with a chipotle, garlic, mayo dip that I describe in the Flank Steak Taco entry.
The Grilled Atheist