Sandwich Cubano is said to have been “born in Cuba, and educated in Key West”. This is no ordinary grilled ham and cheese sandwich. It’s a crispy, melted, oozy goodness you can only dream of. One bite, and you’ll be hooked for life. Cuban sandwiches are basically a panini. They are cooked on a plancha, which is like a panini press. It heats the bread on both sides, melting the cheese and heating the meats through, while crisping and compacting the sandwich into a gooey, crispy, heavenly mess.
If you don’t have a plancha or panini press, then a heavy skillet, and another flat-bottomed heavy pan or a foil-covered brick will work. Of course, you’ll need some Cuban bread, which outside of Florida and other large cities with a Cuban population, is a bit hard to come by. I use Portuguese rolls, because that’s what I find is closest to the real deal in the area where I live. Then you’ll need some leftover Lechon Asado from yesterdays post (these sandwiches are another reason to make the lechon), ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, dill pickles (not something usually associated with Cuban cuisine) and a bit of mayonnaise. There’s controversy over the authenticity of ingredients–some add salami, some say “No!!!”, some add mayo, some don’t, etc. Trust me. One bite and you won’t care about authenticity.
This is how The Goddess makes them. If you want to add salami, or leave off the mayo, do so. I like to add pickled jalapeños to mine and some sriracha, because, well I happen to like those things with a Cuban sandwich. The Latin Lover opts out of those and sticks with the traditional…don’t you just love the melting pot of culinary cultures?
Yankee Cuban Sandwich
- 4 Portuguese Rolls or Italian Bread, if you can’t find a loaf of Cuban bread
- 1 lb ham
- 1 lb thinly sliced Lechon Asado
- 1 lb sliced Swiss cheese
- Dill pickle slices
- Yellow mustard
Preheat a griddle or frying pan on medium-low heat.
Cut the rolls in half lengthwise (or cut the loaf of bread into quarters and slice each quarter lengthwise) for the sandwiches. Spread a thin layer of mustard and mayonnaise on the bread.
For each sandwich begin layering as follows: cheese, pickles, roasted pork, ham, and cheese again.
You may lightly butter the top of the sandwich, but I find lightly coat the cooking surface of the griddle or frying pan with butter works just as well. Place one (or more sandwiches on the griddle/frying pan) sandwich onto the hot surface. Lower the heat.
Put a foil-wrapped brick or a clean, heavy skillet on top of the sandwich to flatten it. Gently press the bread down to about 1/3 of its original size. Leave the skillet on top of the sandwich and grill for one or two minutes. Lift the “pressing” skillet, turn the sandwich over and repeat this step for the other side of the sandwich.
When done, the cheese should be melted and oozing from the sides and the bread golden brown. Slice each sandwich in half diagonally and serve with plantain chips or tostones (fried green plantains.
NOTE: For me personally, I really like to add some pickled jalapeño chiles, some cilantro leaves and/or some sriracha chile sauce, but anyway you prefer it, this is a supremely good sandwich.
The recipe, such that it is, is a guideline really. The following pictures will make you realize how easy this is and so worth the effort of making the lechon, which in all honesty, I doubt you will find that daunting to do. Here we go!
Lay the ham on one side and the sliced pork on the other side, then layer on the dill slices. See the hint below about slicing meat. It’s worth noting that I nuke the sliced pork slightly, just to warm it through, before I put it on the sandwich, because I put enough on so the pork can still be cold inside the sandwich when the bread has reached its toasty best.
place another heavy flat-bottomed skillet on top. Gently press down. As you can see, I use a foil-covered brick that I keep around to make Chicken Under a Brick (clever name, huh?) and it works great when you’re making just 1 or 2 sandwiches. For more sandwiches, I opt of another skillet.
After about 2 minutes (check after 1 minute; you don’t want to burn the bread), remove the pressing skillet, smear a bit of butter on the bread and then carefully flip the sandwich and repeat the pressing process. When the bread is golden and crisp, you’re done and life as you know it, just got better!
You can assemble the sandwiches several hours ahead, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap (refrigerate), then cook them when you’re ready to serve them.
TIP: To slice leftover cooked meat/poultry thinly, first wrap it in foil/plastic, then chill it. Meat/Poultry slices much more easily when it’s cold and you can slice it thinner, too.