Looking for a sandwich recipe that will knock your socks off? Read on for a delicious spin on a Cubano sandwich.
Time for another guest post from our home-chef-in-residence, Tom Schultheis. Last time, he told the story of his roots and with a delicious recipe for German Jaegerschnitzel. Although Florida boasts the original roots of the Cuban Sandwiches, Tom’s experiences traveling in Cuba inspire this recipe. This “Cubano” sandwich recipe remains a crowd favorite at the Schultheis household.
The History of the Cuban Sandwich
The history of the Cuban sandwich goes back to Ybor City in Tampa, once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World”. In the 1900s, thousands of workers from around the world immigrated to the United States to work in the booming cigar industry. According to the legend, each culture of immigrants whose work surrounded this industry has an element represented in the sandwich. The Spanish brought ham, the Sicilians brought salami, the Cubans added mojo-marinated roast pork, and the Germans and Jews brought Swiss cheese, pickle, and yellow mustard. If you’re looking for authenticity, put it all on Cuban bread from Ybor City, Tampa. Whether or not this is the true story or urban legend, natives of Tampa agree on the very particular way to make a Cuban sandwich. In fact, in 2012, the Tampa City Council approved a resolution making the “Historic Cuban Sandwich” the city’s signature sandwich.
What Makes Memories
One of my all-time favorite lines from a movie comes from an exchange in The Lion King between Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog. They were talking about what those sparkly dots are way up there in the night sky. When Timon asserts that they are fireflies that somehow got stuck up there in that bluish-black thing, Pumbaa says, “Oh gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.” Timon’s response: “Pumbaa, with you everything’s gas.” I laughed out loud and dumped my popcorn.
To be honest, my wife has rightly made the same accusation of me on many occasions. She would probably also say that with me, everything is about food. And it’s true. My most treasured memories with family and friends almost always wind their way back to who was there and what we were eating.
Traveling the world… One Meal at a Time
I have been blessed with opportunities to travel to fifty-eight countries. When asked about my impressions or recollections of this place or that, invariably, the most vivid memories seem to be peppered with the food that we ate there. There were waffles in Belgium, chicken feet in Vietnam, and guinea pig in Peru. Each place evokes a unique memory of food that I enjoyed for the first time in that place. And I often try to make many of these dishes at home, guinea pigs and chicken feet notwithstanding.
Discovering The Cubano
During the nineties, my work required frequent travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I was one of several engineers tasked with designing and building housing and support facilities for thousands of Haitian and Cuban refugees. In Cuba, I tasted my first Cubano sandwich and determined there and then that I would create it at home. While there are many variations on the Cubano sandwich theme, I have settled on one that preserves the essence of the first one I tasted in Cuba while borrowing a few elements from elsewhere in the world. Whenever I serve it for family and friends, it receives rave reviews.
Tom's Ultimate Cuban Sandwich
- 1 pork loin the smaller the better
- 1 tbsp olive oil cooking spray
- 1 tsp garlic puree or two fresh garlic cloves
- 1 1 take-and-bake French Baguette or other crusty bread.*
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup spicy brown mustard
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham I use Boar’s Head Branded Deluxe ham.
- 8 slices swiss cheese
- 6 sandwich sliced refrigerated dill pickles I use only Claussen pickles.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the pork loin fat side up in a roasting pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil parchment. If foil is used, spray with olive oil cooking spray.
- Coat the top with olive oil or olive oil spray and then rub all over with garlic. Generously salt and pepper the entire outside of the pork loin and rub it in with the garlic.
- Roast for approximately 25 minutes per pound or until the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees. Be careful not to overcook the pork roast. A slightly pink color on the inside is okay as long as the temperature is at least 165.
- Remove the roasted pork from the oven and cool for 20 minutes.
- Reset the oven temperature to 425 degrees.
- Cut the baguette into 4 equal sections and slice each section longways to form 4 sandwich rolls.
- In a bowl mix the mayonnaise, mustard, and cumin. Spread evenly on all 8 sandwich surfaces.
- Slice the roast pork into thin slices and place generously on the bottom side of each of the sandwiches.
- Place 2 slices of swiss cheese on top of the pork loin slices on each sandwich.
- Place one fourth of the ham on the sandwich top side, and top the ham with 1 1/2 dill pickle slices each.
- Place all eight half-sandwiches open-faced on a baking sheet and toast on the middle rack of the oven at 450 degrees for 8 minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted. **
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then place the top sides (ham/pickle) on the bottom side (pork/cheese).
- Slice each sandwich in half on an angle.
- Serve your Cubano with sides of fresh guacamole, black beans, and/or kettle cooked potato chips.
Our Cubano Tradition
This recipe for the ultimate Cuban sandwich makes us want one right now. Sandwiches are great for lunch, dinner, and even leftovers. Fortunately, if you have picky eaters or dietary restrictions, you can easily modify the sandwiches. We love to bring our Cuban Sandwiches to the Chesapeake Bay (check out that photo) to watch the sunset Sunday nights in the summer. It will always be one of our favorite family memories.
What are some of your favorite family recipes that bring back memories? Share with us in the comments!