Cuban sandwich

The story behind the world-famous Cuban sandwich

By now, the Cuban sandwich is one of America’s guiltiest pleasures. It’s exotic, flavorful, so rich and colorful, like the Cuban culture itself. But there is a debate on it. Where does it come from?

Grilled sandwich cubano©iStock

Cuba, Miami or Tampa?

This is exactly where the debate gets, to say the least, a bit conflicted! There are various origins to the Cuban sandwich.

It's name, of course is from Cuba and Miami natives may say it originated there, but it is generally believed the first Cuban sandwich was actually served in Tampa back in 1905! While it's origin may be debatable, its a pretty universal truth that Cuban sandwiches are DELICIOUS.

One of its secrets? The grilling! The sandwich needs to be pressed in a plancha (similar to a panini maker) so the cheese can melt, and everything becomes crisp.

What does it take to make the perfect Cuban Sandwich?

Chef Tyler Florence, creator of The Ultimate Cuban Sandwich Recipe for Food Network, shared his wisdom on this matter with the world. Although time, preparation and ingredients may make it seem complicated, it’s not. And the results are Ah-mazing!

Ingredients

1 pound of boneless pork shoulder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed with the side of your knife

1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

1 medium onion, sliced

1 cup fresh orange juice

1 lime, juiced

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1 long Cuban bread roll

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

8 thin slices Swiss cheese

1 cup bread and butter pickles

8 thin slices deli ham

Olive oil

Cuban sandwich©iStock

For the preparation, it’s essential to put on some music, and get ready for smells and tastes like no other, following these 5 easy steps:

Begin by braising the pork shoulder. Tie the shoulder in 4 places with kitchen twine so it will hold its shape while being cooked (or ask your butcher to do this for you). Season the pork with salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Set the base of a pressure cooker over low-medium heat and add a 2 count of olive oil.

Add garlic and chili flakes and as the oil heats up it will become fragrant and infuse the oil. Add the pork. Add onions around the pork and brown slightly before adding orange juice, lime juice, stock and bay leaves.

Secure the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of your pressure cooker. The pork should be tender when done. When done allow to cool in juices before removing twine and slicing.

To prepare Cuban sandwiches, split bread in half then layer the sandwich with mustard, cheese, pickles, ham, pork then cheese again (the cheese glues everything together). Season with salt and pepper in between the ham and pork layers. (Optional: drizzle a little of the pork braising liquid over the meat as well).

To cook, heat a large cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat and lightly coat with olive oil. Place the sandwiches on the skillet and top with another heavy skillet and a couple of heavy weights (bricks, or cans of tomatoes work well). Press down firmly and cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side until the sandwich has compressed to about a third of its original size and the bread is super-crispy. Serve with beans, rice and plantain chips.

Now get ready for the treat of a lifetime! It may have many origins, but we love it no matter what!

¡Buen provecho!

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