Cuban Inspired Sandwiches
Inspired by the movie “Chef”, this Cuban sandwich is just as juicy and delicious – you can’t go wrong with crusty bread, tender pork, cheese, ham and mustard- like a real Cubano, but way easier.
Hi there. This is going to be a long post. But full of pictures.
I have a couple of other cool things to share before I share this cool sandwich recipe.
1.) I wrote a piece for Food52! During the summer I spent a chunk of time writing and cooking. One thing I was more than thrilled to work on was a Kulfi piece, which came out early this month. For those of you who don’t know, Kulfi is a traditional milk-based Indian ice cream. Think somewhere between gelato and an ice pop- I’m quoting the article here.
What makes this piece so special is that I wrote it for my grandmother, or nani in hindi – she’s such a wonderful person; a phenomenal grandmother (of course) an unbelievable cook and a talented a kindhearted lady who’d probably never hurt a fly (although apparently she has killed one before). I sent it to her as part of her 70th birthday present because it’s written for the Heirloom Recipes column and it’s all about her. Alongside the writing and food photography, I also included a vintage photo of my nani from the 60’s which was very cool because firstly, I got to flip through a bunch of vintage photos, but also because I thought a lot about her when I was putting the article together.
Here’s a little excerpt:
Homesickness sets in soon after I return from India. I crave potato paranthas fresh from the griddle, endless shelves of mithai(Indian sweets), at the bazaar, and the warm smell of spices drifting around the house. On such days, nothing brings me more comfort than standing in the kitchen and stirring together hot milk and sugar to make my own mithai. The recipe belongs to my grandmother, and that brings me closer to home.
But it’s not just about the piece its self- the recipe is perfection. It’s creamy, fragrant from the saffron, the pistachios add a slight crunch and it’s basically a cooler version of Home. It’s also vegetarian, which is a bonus. So check it out, give it a try, leave a comment- make my day 🙂
I couldn’t contain my excitement. I still can’t- it was pretty overwhelming. Plus, the photograph got like, 20,000 likes which for me, is a huge deal. It’s cool when stuff like that happens.
So that’s all in terms of my news. Now let me present you with The Sandwich.
I saw the movie Chef a while back and I very much enjoyed it. There’s some humor, some anticipation, some sandwiches and some food trucks. What’s not to like? The Cubanos (Cuban sandwiches) were torture to watch on screen- slicing that tender pork shoulder straight from the oven, layering it on some crisp bread, those actors licking that oozing mustard off the sides? Shoot me now. I kid. I just make my own- but without the hassle of slow-cooking pork overnight, looking for hoagie rolls or swiss cheese- I couldn’t find all that stuff. So instead, I grilled some pork loin chops, used a fresh, crusty loaf of bread and layered on some fresh pickles (there’s never a shortage of pickles in Poland) and fresh yellow cheese. I usually don’t like giving precise measurements for sandwiches because it really depends on taste preference. I advise you to customize the recipe based on what your liking. I prefer a strong mustard flavor, which is why I use a generous layer of Dijon. I don’t like too much ham, so I layer about 2 pieces per sandwich- feel free to use more or less- same goes with the pickles or cheese.
In this sandwich, the pork is super tender and full of flavor from the rub, I’m totally in love with it. Make sure the juices have a slight pink touch after cooking and if you insert a knife through one of the chops, it should go through pretty easily. Obviously, you can use leftover pork from dinner or store-bought roasted pork. But don’t substitute it with chicken. While this sandwich is easily customizable, there’s some things you just don’t change.
By no means is this recipe authentic. But it tastes good. Think somewhere in the middle of a fancy hot dog or burger. The quality of ingredients is pretty high (the movie emphasizes good quality ingredients. Heck, they go all the way to Texas for slow cooked meat) and if you want a gourmet-style sandwich, it’s important to use the best ingredients you can find. I find it’s mainly in the bread. A warm, crusty loaf makes for an almost luxurious sandwich, even if the only condiments are peanut butter and jelly.
So that’s my advice to you. Make this for lunch and be amazed. Also, watch the video.
- For the pork:
- 6 thinly cut, boneless pork loin chops (about 300 g)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp of the following: black pepper, salt, dried garlic powder, dried thyme, paprika, dried mustard seeds
- For the sandwiches:
- 1 medium sized loaf of bread (enough for 3 large sandwiches) or 6 slices of bread
- 1 1/2 tbsp softened butter
- 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard (or any type of mustard you like)
- 6-9 thin slices of ham (about 150 g)
- 1-2 small pickles, thinly sliced
- 6 slices of yellow cheese (I like Gouda or Emmental but Swiss is good too)
- Grind together the spices in a mortar and pestle or grinder and rub on both sides of each pork chop.
- Add the olive oil and butter to a pan.
- Once hot, lay on the pork chops (about 4 at a time) and cook on each side for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and tender.
- Place on a plate lined with paper towels to cool and drain off some of the oil, and set aside.
- Slice the loaf of bread (unless you’re using sliced bread) into 3 equal portions.
- Spread 1 side of each portion with the butter and the other side with the mustard.
- Place 2 pieces of the pork on each side, followed by the ham, cheese and pickle slices.
- Close up the sandwich with the other side and place on a preheated grill pan that has been greased with olive oil.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes or until each side is golden brown with those beautiful grill marks, pressing down firmly. I like to place a heavy metal pan on the side up and press it down. You want to get the sandwich as compact as possible.
- You can use a panini press if you have one.
- Serve hot with some ketchup or a nice green salad.
You may also like to check out my Peach, Bacon and Jalapeño Grilled Cheese recipe- it’s out-of-this-world delicious.