Tuesday, June 26, 2012

cuban sandwich.

A few years ago, when my better half and I were in Florida for spring break (spring break is now such a foreign concept which saddens me) we found a lovely hole-in-the wall Cuban restaurant/rest stop/shack.  It was painted a wide variety of obscenely bright/pastel colors that can only be considered normal paint colors in Florida I fell in love.  (Let’s just say I have a soft spot for bright garish colors that others find tacky.  I also have quite the appreciation for hole-in-the walls (thanks Dad!)).  We stopped short, turned the car around and pulled in.  There was a line of people waiting for their orders and picnic tables with mismatched chairs all around the parking lot. The menu was short and sweet – Cuban sandwiches, fried plantains, and a variety of sodas.  We ordered our meal and sat in the bright Florida sun sipping orange soda.  It is one of my happiest memories. 

The sandwiches we got were perfect in their execution (as were the plantains!).  The bread was crispy and as you ate, you encountered moist roast pork, tangy pickles, salty ham, and gooey cheese.  It was the best Cuban sandwich I had ever had.  I don’t know if it was so good because we were 21 and sitting on the side of the road in Florida or if its because it was that incredible, but whatever the reason I will always compare all other Cuban sandwiches to that one.

The Cuban sandwiches we made last night were stellar.  Maybe they were stellar because I was craving them that badly or because all the components just worked together (I like to think they were amazing because most of it was homemade!) but whatever the reason, I was a happy girl after dinner was over.   

Cuban Sandwiches
Makes 4 Sandwiches

I made my own homemade Cuban bread, pork and pickles.  I urge you to make at least one of the components yourself – it will taste that much better if you do.  Also try and have all ingredients at room temperature, makes it much easier to melt the cheese without burning the bread if you do that!

Also do not season your grill pan with olive oil as my sous chef learned yesterday.  Olive oil has a very low smoke point – terrible to use for grilling!

1 Loaf Cuban Bread (recipe below)
16 bread and butter pickles (or more if you like lots of pickles)
6 thin slices of ham (I used the rosemary ham I find at Whole Foods, not traditional but very good!)
½ to ¾ pound pork sliced thin
Swiss cheese
Yellow mustard, if you choose (Not super traditional but I love it)

Slice your loaf of Cuban bread into 4 pieces.  Spread mustard on the bottom layer of bread.  Top with the thin slices of roast pork,1 ½ slices of ham, 4 pickles (or more), and swiss cheese.  Add more mustard to the bread if you desire.  Heat a cast iron skillet and put butter in the pan.  When the pan is hot and the butter is melted, add the sandwich.  Cook for 3 minutes (being careful to make sure it doesn’t burn) and then flip the sandwich and cook for another 2 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.    

Cuban Bread

I halved the recipe because I didn’t need 2 loaves – halving worked perfectly so below is my version for one loaf!  Also this is one of the easiest breads to make, so if you are a beginner I suggest trying it.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 package dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup hot water (120 – 130F)

Place 2 cups of flour in the bowl of your mixer and add the yeast, salt, and sugar.  Mix to combine.  Pour in the water and mix for 1 minute on high speed.  Gradually work in the remaining cup of flour until the dough looses stickiness and/or starts to form a ball.  Once this happens continue to mix for 8 minutes in the mixer.

When you are done mixing, place the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise for 20 minutes until double in size.

When its risen, punch the dough down.  Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal.  Shape the loaf into a long log on the baking sheet. 

Place the baking sheet in the middle of a cold oven.  Put a pan of water on the shelf below.  Turn the oven on to 400 and bake for about 45 minutes or until the loaves are deep golden brown.  Thump the bottom of the loaves to test them – if they sound hollow, they’re done.  

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