Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Cuban Sandwich & The 99 Cent Mojito VIDEO

The embargo is lifted for my final Caribbean dish, a Cuban Sandwich. The 99 Cent Chef welcomes Cubans into his kitchen anytime. I wish I could end this embargo on Cuba with a wave of my whisk. Let's move on Obama, this Cold War fiasco is so 20th Century -- it's over!

 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.

A Cuban Sandwich is similar to an Italian Panini - toasted crisp with meat and cheese. It is Cuban comfort food at its finest. This is the concluding Cuban dish in my month long series, so give it a go.

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.

 This sandwich looks uniquely thin because it is pressed while cooking. Some cooks place everything from a cast iron pan to a foil wrapped brick on the sandwich. I just used my large metal spatula (or any spatula, really) and pressed the sandwich during cooking. It gets thin enough. Also, you could cook it in a Paninni press -- or heck, even on a dorm room George Forman Grill !

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!


Unknown said...

Really looks delicious. Got to have it. I love Cuban Sandwich. ~~Hitchcock Butterfield

Logan49X said...

When I lived in Union City, N.J. in the early 70's and 80's there was a huge Cuban population there..I'm Puerto Rican..we used to get the Cuban Sandwiches for $2 now I've known a few older guys who own some of the restaurants and they always used a Cuban mojito sauce from a bottle and that they would squirt over the sandwich that already had the ingredients that you mentioned before ...sticking it into La Plancha which is that sandwich grill that flattens the sandwich...now in most Cuban restaurants that I have eaten in they've all used this on the sandwich which makes it taste even better on top of the mustard, swiss, and thinly sliced sour pickes, ham and lechon (pork)...The "mix" is simple you use Sour Orange Juice, with some oregano, salt, and minced garlic...(a bit of extra virgin olive oil is optional)...if you don't have any Sour Orange Juice use 1 part orange Juice, 1 part lemon, and 1 part lime...mix everything and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour..now you can put it in a blender if you make a lot, and put it in a squeeze bottle...and remember don't soak the sandwich with it just a little squeeze from end to end going through...and that's it...

Unknown said...

I am seriously drooling over here! What a great looking sandwich!

Lokesh Koshti said...

Really its delicious recipe,....

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