I remember the first time I ate a Cuban sandwich. People had been talking about it in town. Raving about it, in fact. So much word of mouth about this Cubano sandwich had crossed paths with my ears, I finally had to go see what all the fuss was about. Then I understood. The crunch of that incredibly fresh bread, the pork, the ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles. This was sandwich nirvana. I've made them many times in many ways in the intervening years. For this post, I've settled on my version of an easy pressed Cuban sandwich.
What is a Cuban Sandwich?
There is a history here and there are also strong opinions about how best to prepare this sandwich. Generally speaking, the Cuban sandwich is made with ham, pork, cheese, mustard and pickles - and using authentic Cuban bread. According to Wikipedia, the Cuban sandwich likely came to the U.S., mainly in Florida to start, from Cuba in the early 1900's when immigrants traveled to the Tampa or Key West areas. The recipe was brought to the U.S. to cater to Cuban workers.
One of the earliest known bakeries to make the famous Cuban bread and sandwich is La Segunda Bakery in Ybor City, FL which opened in 1915 and is still operating today. According to their website, they produce 18,000 loaves of Cuban bread per day. I so wish I had access to that bread for this recipe, but I'm in Massachusetts and could not find authentic Cuban bread near me.
There also seem to be different versions of this sandwich in Florida. In some areas salami is also added to the sandwich and still in other areas may include lettuce, tomato and mayo which I could not imagine. The salami I would probably love, but lettuce, tomato and mayo? I'm not sure about that. 🙂
Cuban sandwiches are a gift and a pork lover's dream come true. Seriously, it's one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten. Obviously, if I ever get to Florida, my first stop will be La Segunda to try their classic Cuban sandwich.
What Makes This an Easy Pressed Cuban Sandwich?
I decided to bypass a marinade for the pork. Look, you know I am a huge advocate for marinades. Love them! But I also understand this adds to the preparation time and sometimes we're looking for simpler recipes in our home kitchens. A lot of Cuban sandwiches are made with what's called a mojo marinade and many other versions of this sandwich include other flavorful marinades.
However, to keep this version of a Cubano sandwich in a more simple form, I seasoned my center cut pork roast with just salt and pepper. I roasted it in the oven for about an hour, let it cool, and refrigerated overnight. This way you have the pork ready-to-go the next day when you assemble the sandwiches. The roasted pork is still incredibly tender and delicious with just salt and pepper.
Also, you don't need a panini machine to make this sandwich. We're going to use what you have on hand to press the sandwiches. Here's what you can use:
- Panini press #1 = a heavy cast iron skillet
- Panini press #2 = a pan weighted down with a tea pot with water (about ½ full)
- Panini press #3 = if no tea kettle, just use a large pot with water in it. (about ½ full)
How to Assemble Your Cuban Sandwiches
There is some mise en place involved here. Mise en place is a French term meaning "everything in its place" that I learned when I was in college at a hotel/restaurant management school. Set up your assembly station. Make sure everything you need is right there:
- Have your measured and sliced bread ready to go
- Soft butter to spread on sandwich tops
- Swiss Cheese
- Sliced deli ham
- Sliced pork roast
- Sliced pickles
- Heavy skillet for panini press #1
- Pan and water-filled tea kettle for panini press #2
How to Re-Heat Your Leftover Cuban Sandwiches
If you've made this cuban sandwich for a crowd, you may not have any leftovers. This is great to feed a group and would make an excellent Super Bowl Sunday offering as well. Should you have a few half sandwiches leftover have no fear - they taste great reheated and they'll keep in the fridge for a few days after making them.
I usually preheat my toaster oven to about 300. Place the sandwich on a tray and tent a piece of foil over the top so the bread doesn't burn. Let it warm for about 10 minutes (longer if you want) and you're good to go.
Can I Freeze My Leftover Over Cuban Sandwiches?
Yes, of course you can. However, they will not taste the greatest they can taste. I've done it and I've eaten it. I will not say it is fantastic. It is pretty good. It can be done and it's not bad. I put the sandwich in the refrigerator overnight to defrost it first. Then I heated it in the toaster oven as mentioned above.
Are You Looking for More Awesome Sandwiches? Try These!
- Anthony Bourdain's Macau-Style Pork Chop Sandwich
- Crispy Pork Schnitzel Sandwich w/Pickled Red Onions & Savory Caper Spread
- Pickle Juice and Buttermilk-Brined Fried Chicken Sandwich
- French Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich w/Bacon
- Fried Green Tomatillo Sandwich w/Bacon, Dill Sour Cream & Microgreens
- Korean Bulgogi Sandwich w/Spicy Cucumbers & Cheddar
- The Ultimate Roasted Veggie Sandwich
- BBQ Chicken Panini w/Cheddar & Basil
- Crunchy Raspberry Brie Grilled Cheese