Did I ever tell you about the time I ordered a Cuban Sandwich and got a fried egg? No. Seriously, it happened.
Several years ago, Geargirl and I were traveling in Peru, far up in the Andes in the old Incan capital of Cusco. One night, we walked in search of some specific restaurant in some specific neighborhood, probably just one of the hundred places specializing in potatoes and tubers, but that's a whole other story. At any rate, we didn't find that restaurant. I should mention that simply walking a dozen blocks at that altitude (11,200 feet) made us pant, so not wanting to press on too much further, we just milled around in search of dinner. We found a little sandwich shop -- it was clean, it smelled good and it was right there. I was sold.
Despite my less than stellar menu Spanish, which has gotten me into some hairy situations (pan fried tripe anyone?), Cubana sandwiches were on the menu board. Great. I love Cuban sandwiches. Roasted pork, ham, cheese, pickles. What's not to love, right? We ordered two. In the land of the Incas, I didn't expect a sandwich straight out of Little Havana, but neither did I expect what arrived -- a hamburger on hamburger type roll, with fried plantains and a fried egg. It was most definitely not a Cuban sandwich. But it was strangely delicious.
All of which has zero to do with preparing traditional Cuban sandwiches, but I just like that story. Also, one of these days, I swear I'm going to serve burgers with fried plantains and fried eggs.
Basically, I roasted the pork in the morning and assembled the sandwiches later in the day (i.e., closer to kickoff.) I did consider making a ham, too, but that seemed excessive, even to me. I will say that the roasted pork is fantastic and stands on it's own as a dish.
CUBAN ROASTED PORK
You will need:
2 pound pork loin roast
about 10 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
the juice of 2 oranges
the juice of 1 lemon
the juice of 1 lime
1 spanish onion, minced
2 teaspoons oregano (Mexican if you have it)
1/2 to 1 cup white wine
1/2 cup olive oil
Coarsely chop the garlic and shallots. Toss them in the food processor with the juices, peppercorns and oregano. It doesn't haven't to be perfectly smooth, but I found that pulsing it about 10 times gave me the consistency I wanted. Add the onion and olive oil and let it sit while you deal with the pork.
I used regular pork loin roast, so I trimmed the fat from the top of the roast, but you don't have to. But do pierce the roast a whole bunch with the tip of a sharp knife. Pour 2/3 of the marinade over pork, cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least three hours. Refrigerate the remaining marinade, too, because you'll use it later.
When you're ready to roast, add the wine to the remaining marinade, put the pork on a rack in a roasting pan and pour the remaining marinade over the pork. Cook uncovered at 325°F. It should cook about 25-30 minutes per pound, so check it after about 20 minutes and baste it occasionally. When the pork is done, let is rest before you start hacking away at it or you'll have a big mess on your hands. Like I said, I made enough pork to feed the Fidel Castro's cabinet, so I'm going to live on it for days and serve just the roast with some Black Beans and Rice.
CUBAN SANDWICH ASSEMBLY
You will need:
1 pound ham sliced thin, but not shaved (go to a good market or butcher shop and get it freshly sliced -- look for a slightly sweet, soft textured ham with a mild taste. You don't want the flavor of the ham to overpower the rest of the ingredients)
1/2 pound Baby Swiss cheese, sliced (gotta be Baby Swiss. Adult Swiss is not creamy enough. Insert bad joke here.)
thinly sliced dill pickles
sandwich rolls, preferably fresh from a proper baker (Cuban bread is used for the real deal, but that's about impossible to find in Pittsburgh. I tried using a french roll, not a baguette, but even that was a bit too crusty. The bread needs to be dense and the crust should come from the toasting, so next time, I'm going to try an Italian sub roll. I am open to suggestions, though.)
Preheat a large frying pan to low to medium hot. You don't want it too hot or the crust will burn before the cheese melts and the meat warms up.
Cut the bread into sections about 8 inches long. Cut these in half make each sandwich with the ingredients in this order: pickles, roasted pork, ham, cheese and mustard.
Spread a little butter on the hot frying pan and place the sandwich on the pan. Use a heavy skillet or foil-wrapped brick (or Norton's Anthology of English Literature) to flatten the sandwich. Grill for 4 to 6 minutes then flip over to toast the other side.
Once the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown on both sides, the sandwiches are done. Slice the sandwiches in half diagonally and serve. If you've never had a Cuban Sandwich before, plan on falling in love. Hard.