I went to Miami a couple months ago. It was my first time to really visit there (changing planes in the Miami airport doesn’t count). Matt and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary by taking a little weekend getaway to South Beach. It was a blast. The weather was nice, our hotel was right on the beach, and we spent a lovely three days doing very little other than relaxing by the pool or at the beach. And we pretty much ate nothing but Cuban food the entire time.
Miami has a large Cuban immigrant community, so there’s an abundance of their delicious cuisine down there. I tried all sorts of traditional Cuban dishes: plantain fries, ropa viejo, mojo marinated chicken, guava barbecue sauce, coconut flan, mojitos, and of course, the Cubano sandwich. You can get cubanos in the US, and if you haven’t tried one yet, I highly recommend doing so at the soonest opportunity. I first discovered these delicious sandwiches when a small Cuban take-out place moved into my neighborhood. We feasted on them every couple of weeks until the place went under. Since then I’ve found outstanding Cubano sandwiches in New York at the Upper West Side eatery A.G. Kitchen. The menu states that they are the best Cubanos in New York. I haven’t tasted every single Cubano in New York, but after tasting A.G.’s, I feel no need to do so.
The secret behind this sandwich is the mojo marinated, slow-cooked pork, known as Puerco Asado. Slices or shreds of the pork are placed in between two slices of a Cuban roll, which is some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted. Both Dijon mustard and mayonnaise is spread on the bread, which encases the pork, some deli-sliced ham, deli-sliced Swiss cheese, and thin sliced pickles. Then the whole sandwich is pressed, like a Panini, until the bread is crispy on the outside and the cheese is melted and gooey. It’s beyond outstanding. I’d been dying to make them at home, despite my inability to find proper Cuban rolls. Soft torpedo rolls will do. And maybe my next challenge is baking up some Cuban bread at home. Hmm…
Anyway, they were so awesome. The pork is the really important part. I mean, anyone can press ham, cheese, pickles and condiments together. It’s the pork with its citrusy, garlicky marinade that makes it special. These sandwiches kept us raving for days afterward. I highly recommend trying them!
Source: Eating Cuban, by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs
2 loaves Cuban bread or soft torpedo rolls
2-3 tbs Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 dill pickles, cut into long, thin slices
1/3 lb. thin sliced Swiss cheese
1/3 lb. thin sliced deli ham
1/2 lb. thin sliced Puerco Asado, aka Roast Pork Loin (recipe to follow)
Split the rolls/loaves, then spread mustard on the bottom half of each, and mayonnaise on the top half of each. Layer pickle slices atop the mustard, then add a layer of cheese, ham, and Puerco Asado. Place the other half of the roll on top. Preheat your sandwich press. Place the sandwiches in the press and bake for 6-8 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Cut sandwiches in half on the bias and serve immediately.
Makes 4 large sandwiches to serve 8
Roast Pork Loin
1 (3 lb) boneless, center-cut pork loin roast
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 to 1 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
1 large onion, sliced into thick rings
Pierce the roast all over with the tip of a sharp paring knife to a depth of about 1/2 inch. This will allow the seasonings to permeate the meat.
Crush the garlic in a garlic press into a small mixing bowl. Add the salt, oregano, cumin, and pepper and mash together with a fork to make a paste. Place the pork in a baking dish and rub the paste all over and into the slits you’ve made. Pour the citrus juice into the baking dish and add 1/2 cup sherry. Sprinkle the onion rings over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate, refrigerated, for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Turn the roast once or twice while marinating.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove the roast from the marinade and pat dry; reserve the marinade and onion. Place pork in a baking dish or Dutch oven just large enough to hold it comfortably. Cook 20 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 325 F. Add the marinade and onion. Continue to cook, basting every 15 minutes with the pan juices, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 165 F, 40 minutes or so. If the pan juice dry up on you, add more sherry or water, about 1/2 cup. Remove the roast from the oven and tent with foil. Let stand about 10 minutes, untouched.
Optional: while the pork is resting, add 1 cup water to the roasting pan and loosen any browned bits. Bring to a boil stovetop and cook, stirring, until the juices have reduced to about 1/2 cup. Slice the pork thinly and serve it with the onion pan sauce. You can also swirl butter into the pan sauce at the last minute to make it richer and tastier. However, this last step should be skipped if you are using the whole roast for sandwiches.