After years of trying them, I have had very few excellent Cuban sandwiches. They always seem dry. My version here may not be traditional, but everyone likes it. I use soft, sweet challah bread rather than the traditional baguette-style bread. When you toast it, the sandwich still gets crispy on the outside, but the bread stays soft and moist inside. For a group of friends, split the whole loaf in half lengthwise and make one big sandwich on a large griddle or extra-large panini press. I’ll take those melters, Gruyère and Gouda, over dry Swiss cheese any day. And for the ham, I have no idea why people use the least flavorful deli ham available. A good Virginia-style pit ham — a little sweet and a little smoky — will never steer you wrong. Just don’t slice it paper-thin: It should have some chew when you bite into it. And for the roast pork, I use moist and juicy Slow-Cooked Pork Barbacoa. The signature flavor of mojo, Cuba’s orange and olive oil sauce, comes in the form of mojo mayonnaise. The mayo helps to carry those citrus flavors through the entire sandwich. — Kevin Gillespie, author of Pure Pork Awesomeness.
From Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC
- 1 ¼ Cup mayonnaise, such as Dukes
- 1 large orange, for juicing
- 1 lime, for juicing
- 1 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste, about 4 teaspoons
- 1 Tablespoon toasted and finely ground cumin seeds
- 2 Teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, about 1 cup
- 4 Cuban-style sandwich loaves, or 1 loaf brioche or challah bread, cut into eight ¾-inch thick slices
- 2 Teaspoons yellow mustard
- 1 Cup grated Gouda cheese (could be any kind of rich, easy-melting cows milk cheese)
- 1 Cup grated Gruyere cheese
- 4 Ounces thick-sliced deli ham
- 10 Ounces slow-cooked pork barbacoa, sliced
- Dill pickle slices, preferably flat, thinly sliced cucumber dill pickles
- Nonstick cooking spray
In a blender, combine the mayonnaise, ½ cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon lime juice, garlic, cumin, and salt until smooth. Add the cilantro and blend until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds.
The order of assembly is important here! Spread the bottom slice of bread with mustard and sprinkle with the Gouda. Build the rest of the sandwich on the top slice of bread, starting with the Gruyère, followed by a slice of ham and the Barbacoa. Place a liberal layer of pickles over the pork, and top that with a full-on slathering of the cilantro mayonnaise. Flip the bottom up onto the top and press down firmly to compact.
Heat a panini press to medium and coat lightly with nonstick spray or a brush of grapeseed or canola oil. You really want a nice, slow melt and toast. Place the sandwiches on the press, top side down, and close the top. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the bread is toasty and golden brown and the cheese starts melting.
Alternatively, if you’re using a griddle, heat to medium and coat the pan lightly with nonstick spray or a brush of oil. You do not want a smoking-hot griddle here, or it will char the bread. Place the sandwiches on the griddle, top side down, and place a baking sheet on top of the sandwiches and then place some heavy weights on top to compress the sandwiches. Cook until the bottom surface of the bread is golden brown and you start to see the cheese melting, 3 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the sandwiches, brush the top of the bread lightly with oil, then flip. Replace the baking sheet and weights on top and continue cooking until the sandwiches are golden brown and crispy and you can see the rest of the cheese melting, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the sandwiches, flip over, and cut in half on the diagonal. Serve the sandwiches with the remaining cilantro mayonnaise for dipping.