The origin of the Cuban sandwich, otherwise called “Cuban mix”, “mixto”, “pressed Cuban sandwich” or simply “Cubano”, is shrouded in mystery. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, traveling from the island of Cuba to the American continent to Florida was quite simple, especially when it came to Key West and Tampa. In any case, Cubans shuttled back and forth not only to get a job but also for recreation, as well as to visit relatives. It was thanks to this constant movement between Cuba and the United States, uncontrolled by anyone, that there was a constant exchange of people, culture and ideas, therefore it is extremely difficult to say on whose territory this sandwich first appeared.
Some culinary historians believe that it was habitually included in the lunch menu for workers of cigar factories and sugar factories in Cuba (especially in Havana and Santiago de Cuba), and by the 1860s, those who worked in the cigar factories of Key West.
Cigar production in Florida was moved to Tampa by the mid-1880s, and in the following decade, tens of thousands of Cuban workers moved to the region. The first documented mentions of the Cuban sandwich began to appear in connection with the opening of many eateries for workers in Ybor City and West Tampa, which gave some historians reason to believe that the homeland of the sandwich is still Florida.
One of the researchers, Andrew Hughes, claimed that “old mixto” acquired its modern look in Tampa. And an article published in the Mason City Globe newspaper in 1934 stated that the gastronomic preferences of Tampa residents differ significantly from those that prevail among the population of the rest of Florida. The Cuban sandwich was among the mentioned preferences and was at that time an iconic local dish.
Types of Cuban sandwiches
There are still ongoing disputes about what exactly should be included in the ingredients of an authentic (if such a definition is appropriate in this case) Cuban sandwich. In general, however, many experts have settled on the following: the sandwich begins with Cuban bread, which resembles a French baguette. The bread is divided into pieces up to 20-30 cm long and cut in half parallel to the base. Then it is lightly greased on the outside with butter or olive oil. The lower part of the bread is covered with a layer of mustard, on which slices of fried or grilled pork, ham, Swiss cheese and well-chopped pickled vegetables with dill (gherkins, for example) are successively placed. Sometimes pork is marinated in Mojo sauce before frying.
The main controversial component in the composition of the Cuban sandwich is salami, which appeared in the recipe due to the influence of Italian immigrants who (like Spaniards) lived and worked side by side with Cubans. Sometimes you can find mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes in a Cuban sandwich, but traditionalists are categorically against such additions.
So if you would eat Cubano in Miami it would not have salami, and it will have salami in Tampa.
What is a Cuban sandwich?
A Cuban sandwich is a dish that is very popular in Miami, Florida, where it can be found both on restaurant menus and at street vendors selling ready-made food. Although the recipe for a Cuban sandwich resembles the recipe for making an ordinary sandwich with ham and cheese, the quality of the necessary ingredients and the method of roasting bread until it becomes crispy and golden make this dish original and unique.
It all starts with a marinade to the pork. The traditional marinade for the pork used in a Cuban Sandwich is Mojo.
Mojo is a marinade sauce originally from Cuba. It has citrus fruits, oregano and a lot of garlic. And an interesting way of cooking – all the ingredients, including citrus juice, are added in hot vegetable oil. In this way, aromatic components are released, which are then transferred to meat or poultry during marinating. The marinade, which is obtained from the number of ingredients specified in the recipe, is enough for three and a half pounds of meat or chicken.
Let’s start from the Mojo marinade:
- Grate garlic on a fine grater or squeeze through a garlic press. Finely chop the onion.
- Rub the zest from the citrus (take only a thin top color layer).
- Squeeze out the juice. Pour into a bowl, add all the ingredients except the oil.
- Mix it up.
- Pour the oil into a saucepan and heat it well.
- Carefully pour the marinade into it (carefully – the oil can shoot) and mix.
- Let it stand for 10 minutes under the lid and use it for marinating meat.
- Marinate pork in the resulting mixture for at least two hours.
Then you need to follow these easy steps:
- Heat the grill pan and fry the pork pieces briefly on medium-high heat so that they are well browned.
- Mix pickled cucumbers and dill in a small bowl.
- Grease the inside of the bread base with butter. Then we put half of the cheese, pieces of pork, salami, ham, pickled cucumbers with dill and the remaining cheese. Spread the inside of the upper half of the bread with sweet mustard and cover the sandwich with it.
- After that, spread the outer part of both halves of bread with the remaining butter and put it on a large heated frying pan with a massive bottom.
- Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side, pressing down with something heavy. If you are lucky enough to have a panini press, use it for this particular occasion.
- The finished Cuban sandwich is immediately served to the table.
Tips for the best Cuban sandwich
Like other types of sandwiches, Cuban can also be combined with various fillers. For a change, we recommend adding little pickled cucumbers to the meat and to make the snack juicy, you can use a roast of bell peppers and onions. An additive in the form of cherry tomatoes, cut in half, is also ideal for meat.
The ham we suggest using in the Cuban sandwich is a Black Forest ham. If you can’t find Black Forest ham, smoked ham would also be a great choice.
There are two types of pork that you should use in a Cubano. Mojo marinated pork or Pernil. We gave you instructions on how to make a Mojo marinade above.
If you don’t eat pork or you have dietary restrictions and you can’t eat pork, you can substitute it with chicken or turkey and marinade them in Mojo.
Also, you can make your Cuban sandwiches ahead. Grease with garlic oil, toast your bread and assemble your sandwich: add pork, ham, salami, cheese. You can prepare your sandwiches 4 hours before serving them. Bread toasting will help you to make your Cubano not soggy.
Sandwiches can be wrapped in foil, this will not let your bread not become stale and not mess everything around. Keep your sandwiches in the fridge.
When you are ready to eat, just get the sandwiches from the fridge and let them rest in a room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
After that just unwrap the sandwiches and add all the other ingredients( pickles, mustard and others). Toast and press your sandwiches. Ready!