The Cuban sandwich makes use of leftover Cuban roast pork – for the uninitiated, it’s basically a delicious pork and cheese sandwich. Having recently returned from a trip to Havana, the Cuban sandwich was high on our radar. However, Mr. S and I only saw it once on a menu but never tried as it was too early in the morning. Perhaps we should have ordered it even if it was ten o’clock! Every eatery we went to we would ask about the sandwich and most said the best place to try one is in Miami! Huh? So I did a bit of sleuthing and found out this was attributed to the Cuban tobacco industry that began in Florida in the mid-1800’s. First in Key West and later in Tampa with thousands relocating there. Factory workers needed a lunch that was cheap and filling; the Cuban sandwich was born.
There’s a heated debate as to whether Tampa or Miami is the real deal. Tampa, when the tobacco industry was setting up shop, was home to Italian and Spanish immigrants which explains the addition of salami to the sandwich. Miami’s mayor said salami is for pizza! Whatever the debate, the sandwich consists of shredded pork, glazed ham slices, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and dill pickles – served either cold or hot-pressed with Cuban bread. My version is simple and, I think, resulting in a scrumptious sandwich.
soft bread roll or better still if you live in an area where Cuban bread is available
cooked ham steak
deli sliced honey ham
Swiss cheese slices
dill pickles, sliced
Cut bread in half and slather on mustard. Start with a layer of ham slices followed by ham steak. Add sliced pickles and generously top with Swiss cheese and cover with bread. Flatten slightly with your hand, butter top and bottom of bread roll. If you have a sandwich grill, use that to heat until cheese starts to melt. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have one, use a griddle pan and place a heavy lid on top.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: If you visit Cuba, please include Havana in your itinerary. The beach resorts do not represent the rest of Cuba. The people are friendly but very poor (USD$25.00 a month). Eat at a paladares (local private restaurant); the food and service is much better than the state run restaurants.