I would like to break bread with the Cuban people one day, as I am a great fan of the cuisine. Locally I've had both good and bad Cuban Sandwiches. Downtown's former Cuidad (now a Border Grill ) served a great mini-version at Happy Hour to downtown power brokers in suits and skirts. At Glendale's Porto's Bakery on Brand Boulevard, nearby mall shoppers get a bargain sandwich deliciously meaty, and cheap at $4.85 (but they add mayo, which is a no-no.) At Cafe Tropical on Sunset Boulevard, Echo Park hipsters hunkered over their Macs, can scarf down $6 sandwiches while sipping papaya juice under Che Guevera posters.
West on Sunset in Silverlake, taxi drivers dine mini-mall style at El Cochinito on $6.95 sandwiches. And my favorite Cuban Restaurant, Versailles , with locations on Venice and La Cienega Boulevards, serves a surprisingly unappetizing one for $9.99 - oily bread, ham, and Swiss cheese, with scraps of roast pork. Maybe it was just a bad day in the kitchen the one and only time I tried it. Sorry Versailles - I'll always come back for your Roast Pork and Chicken dinners, though.
The Cuban Sandwich is a dynamite combination of flavors: sour mustard and pickle, tart creamy Swiss cheese, sweet cured ham, and tender Cuban roast pork - all on a crunchy crusted grilled bread roll.
When placed on your plate it is a sleek modernist meal. The sandwich is pressed thin and sliced diagonally -- looking like a crisp, cheesy, meat-filled fin, with a slash of cool green pickle peeking out. It's a great tasting sandwich that's also aesthetically pleasing.
A couple of weeks ago I showed you how to make Cuban Roast Pork. So, now you have the most complicated part of the sandwich done. The other fillings come cheaply from a typical deli case. And you now have one more use for that leftover Easter ham.
As for the bread, Cuban rolls are not easy to come by, but a sandwich roll, from the bakery section of your grocery store, works fine. I've picked them up for way less than 50 cents each. You could use an Italian or French baguette - just slice it into 2 or 3 sections. My local Latin market makes fresh Bolillos rolls daily. I've even used packaged steak rolls. Once you grill the sandwich, the bread crisps-up well enough. And since this is a pressed sandwich, the shape and texture of the bread is changed significantly.
And the perfect drink accompaniment is a cool Cuban concoction, made with rum, sugar cane juice and lime, called a Mojito. As a special bonus, I've called up one of my first recipe videos, "The 99 Cent Mojito," for a timely replay. To see the blog post with my Mojito recipe written out, just click here.
The 99 Cent Mojito -Video
Play it here. The video is 4 1/2 minutes.
Ingredients for Cuban Sandwich (one sandwich)
- Cuban style roast pork - a few chunks or slices. Click here for my recipe.
- 1-2 slices of cooked ham - depending how thin the ham is.
- 1-2 slices of Swiss cheese - again, depending how thin cheese is sliced.
- A few slices of pickle - wedges or coin sliced. Usually made with tart, but sweet Bread and Butter is a nice twist.
- Cuban bread roll, split - or any roll. I've used steak rolls, French, Italian and Mexican (bolillos) bread rolls.
- Mustard or dijon - a smear on each roll side. Some use mustard as a dipping sauce only. It will be good cooked with or without mustard.
- A pat of butter or a teaspoon of oil for grilling. Non-stick spray is okay.
Remove meat from refrigerator and allow to reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. Add butter (or oil) to a heating pan or grill. Split roll and smear mustard on each side. Layer on pickles, chunks of roast pork, ham and cheese, and place on a heated grill or pan. Brown bread on each side, until cheese is melted and oozing.
If the pork and ham is thick-sliced you can zap it in the microwave 20 or 30 seconds to heat it through. You can also heat the meat in a pan for a minute. You want the meat to be hot in the sandwich when served.
A Cuban Sandwich is served sliced at an angle -- so one sliced side tapers into a point. It's easier to inhale that way. Serve with my 99 Cent Mojito!