A classic Cuban Sandwich!
The Cuban sandwich is a favorite sandwich for people on the go in Florida. It seems like every convenience store has a Cuban sandwich grill. Convenience store Cuban sandwiches are not the best quality, but they do appeal to those who want something other than a convenience store hot dog for a hot sandwich.
Cuban sandwiches originated in Cuban cafes and at street vendor mobile shops. Cuban sandwiches were originally made for busy Cuban industrial workers. Cuban sandwiches spread to Tampa and Miami along with other favorite Cuban foods, when Cuban workers and refugees established colonies in those two towns.
The original Cuban sandwich is made with slow roasted pork and onions, ham and swiss cheese. Many old Cubans say that ham was not part of the original Cuban sandwich. No pickles, no mustard, no mayonnaise and no salami! Every time that I order a Cuban sandwich at a Cuban cafe, the original Cuban sandwich is what I get! Cubans are proud of their slow roast cooking methods, especially when it comes to pork. A good original Cuban sandwich has no flavors that would compete with the great flavor of Cuban slow roasted pork!
A good simple Cuban slow roasted pork is the key to a great Cuban sandwich! A pork shoulder roast is placed on a bed of sliced onion and garlic cloves and then smothered with sliced onion. The roast pork's main spice flavor is cumin. The slow roasted caramelized onions are almost always served along with the roast pork on a Cuban sandwich.
The other necessity for a good Cuban sandwich is Cuban bread. Cuban bread is a basic baguette recipe that is enriched with milk. Milk gives Cuban bread the light thin crispy crust and softer pith texture. Cuban bread has a pale very light colored crust. No olive oil is added to the yeast dough to lengthen and elasticize the glutens, like Italian bread or focaccia. No excess amount of steam is used in the oven to create a thick crusty texture like French baguettes. Cuban bread is easy to make. Just replace some of the water in a French baguette recipe with milk!
Cuban bread can be found in any Cuban market or Florida grocery store. Many grocery store bakeries in America seem to hire some fairly inept bakery employees at low wages. One of the easiest breads to make is a basic French bread recipe with milk added to it. The milk helps to enrich and stabilize the dough and the milk stabilized bread takes much more time to turn dark. Less over cooked dark bread, means more profits for a grocery store. Therefore, without intention, many grocery store bakeries are actually selling Cuban bread!
The third item that is needed is a Cuban sandwich press or a panini grill press. The whole sandwich is placed on the grill dry and then the panini grill is shut on the sandwich and weight is applied to press the sandwich flat. Old time Cuban restaurants simply use a flat top grill and an aluminum foil wrapped brick to make Cuban sandwiches. By pressing the sandwich with the brick, the sandwich will need to be flipped, so both sides are grilled. The grilling temperature should be about 250 to 275 degrees, so the bread does not become too dark.
Cuban Sandwich Recipe:
It is easier to slow roast a large piece of pork than a small one. So, there will be an excess of roasted pork in this recipe. Simply make more Cuban sandwiches, because nobody can eat just one!
Place 1 large handful of thin sliced onion on a roasting pan.
Add 4 whole garlic cloves.
Place a 12 to 16 ounce piece of pork shoulder roast on the onions.
Place 1 handful of thin sliced onion on top of the pork.
Drizzle a small amount of vegetable oil over the pork and onions.
Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Season with 2 to 3 pinches of cumin.
Slow roast the pork in a 275 degree oven, till the pork is fully cooked and till the onions and garlic become caramelized.
Allow the roast pork to rest and cool.
Thin slice the roast pork. 4 to 6 ounces of roast pork are needed per sandwich.
Split a 6" to 8" long section of Cuban bread open.
Place a few thin slices of swiss cheese on both halves of the bread.
Place a few thin slices of ham on the cheese. (About 2 ounces of ham is plenty. I used smoked ham for the Cuban sandwich in the pictures.)
Place 4 to 6 ounces of the sliced slow roasted pork on the sandwich.
Place some of the caramelized onions from the roast pork on the sandwich.
Place the two sandwich halves together.
Place the sandwich on a Cuban sandwich grill, a panini grill or a regular flat top grill set to 275 degrees. (For a regular grill, place an aluminum foil wrapped brick on top of the sandwich, and flip the sandwich once to grill the top side.)
Apply pressure to the grill to flatten the sandwich.
Grill the sandwich, till the bread becomes crusty like pastry crust, but don't grill till the bread becomes too dark.
Place the sandwich on a cutting board and cut it in half.
Place the sandwich halves on a plate.
Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig and a dill pickle.
Delicious! I used to work with some old Cuban chefs in Florida and this is how they made Cuban sandwiches. The aroma of the roast pork and onions on a Cuban sandwich is mouth watering! Serve with a cool refreshing Guanabana con Leche or a bottle of malta. Yum! ... Shawna