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Have I mentioned lately that I have the best job in the world? For those of you who don’t know, I work a few hours a week at Red Stick Spice Co. in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It’s a great store that sells bulk spices, spice blends, olive oils, balsamics, flavored salts and local products. As if that wasn’t great enough, the owner happens to be just about the most awesome person on the planet. Really. She recently purchased tickets for all the employees and their spouses to go see the new movie, Chef. Let me tell you, this movie will rock your world. It is food porn at it’s best. You will leave the theater with one thing on your mind….”Where can I get a cuban sandwich at this hour?”

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The movie tells the story of Chef Carl Casper (the amazingly talented Jon Favreau), a chef at a hot Brentwood restaurant with a tyrannical owner (Dustin Hoffman) who wants Carl to “just cook the menu”, much to the frustration of Carl. Not to give too much away, but things happen and Carl must return to his culinary roots in Miami with the help of his ex-wife (the beautiful Sofia Vergara). It’s a great story of loss and redemption and a father getting to know his son again along the way. But the real focus is the food.

If you’re not familiar with the Cuban sandwich, let me tell you what you’re missing. The sandwich contains two, yes two kinds of pork, ham and roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread that’s been brushed with butter. Then the whole sandwich is grilled in a sandwich press. Delicious! In the movie, Carl serves his Cubanos with yuca fries. I have about as much chance of finding a yuca as finding a Yeti in Baton Rouge, so we went for simplicity and just had Cubanos by themselves.

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Cuban Sandwich 

  • 4 soft hoagie buns or Cuban bread
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 4 garlic pickles, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 lb ham, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 lb roast pork, sliced thinly (see recipe below)
  • 6 slices swiss cheese
  • 4-6 T butter, softened

Heat sandwich press to 350˚ with flat griddle attachment. Cut buns in half lengthwise. Spread mustard on cut sides of bread. Layer ham, roast pork, pickle and swiss cheese over mustard on bottom piece of bread. Place top piece of bread on top of cheese and brush softened butter over the top of the bun. Brush the griddle with a little softened butter and place sandwich in griddle. Close the lid to press the sandwich down by at least one-third. Cook 3-6 minutes until the cheese is melted and insides are hot. Remove from griddle and cut in half diagonally. Serve hot.

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Notes:

  • No sandwich press? No problem! Here’s something I found on icuban.com/food. Those guys crack me up!

Our friend Alton Brown over at the Food Network has the craziest recommendation we have ever heard of for making a Cubano sandwich. He writes:

“If you don’t have a sandwich press, you can heat 6 fireplace bricks wrapped in foil, in a 500 degrees F oven for 1 hour and then press the sandwich between them for 10 minutes.”

Really Alton? That sure sounds like overkill! Every home cook has a frying pan or griddle. A foil wrapped brick makes a nice weight to keep the sandwich compressed while you cook it ON ONE SIDE. Then, you simply remove the brick, flip the sandwich over, and finish cooking on the other side. The brick (or any weight you use to flatten the sandwich) does NOT have to be hot!!

Home sandwich makers have been cooking Cubano sandwiches this way for years — long before the popularity of the panini presses or the George Foreman grill!

The only possible way Alton’s suggestion makes any sense is if you are on one of those survival shows and all they have given you to survive are six bricks, aluminum foil, a fire — and oh yeah, Cuban bread, pickles. pork, ham, and Swiss cheese.

  • I used those Claussen garlic dill pickles. The kind you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I bought whole pickles and sliced them myself.

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Roast Pork

  • 6 lb pork shoulder or pork butt roast
  • 1½ cups orange juice
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • zest from oranges, lemons and limes
  • 20 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 T whole black peppercorns
  • fresh thyme

In a mortar and pestle (or food processor) smash together the garlic and salt until a chunky paste forms. Add peppercorns in with garlic and continue processing until pepper is crushed. In a very large bowl, stir together the orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and citrus zests. Mix in garlic and pepper mixture. Add fresh thyme. Place roast in bowl with marinade. Cover and refrigerate 12-24 hours or at least overnight.

Preheat oven to 425˚. Remove roast from marinade and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Place roast on middle rack in oven and bake at 425˚ for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350˚ and cook another 30 minutes. Reduce heat again to 300˚ and cook another hour or until internal temperature reads 170˚ (mine took 2 hours total cooking time). When internal temperature reaches 170˚, remove from oven and let rest at least 10 minutes (20 minutes is better) and slice. Enjoy!

You see that corn maque choux in the picture below? My husband made that with some corn that was left over from a crawfish boil we went to the day before. While I’m not going to say that the corn maque choux is his first foray into cooking, he’s really good with eggs, he made it without a recipe and used just the stuff in the fridge. I was suitably impressed and it tasted great! Good job, JZ!

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