Cooking With Fire: The Cuban Sandwich

Aug 11, 2017

When I was 19, I moved to Florida for college. I have a lot of fond memories of this time in my life, but if you get me talking about my college experience what you’re really going to get is the story of all of the different foods I was introduced to.

One of the biggest culinary surprises of my time in Florida was the Cuban sandwich. I’m almost embarrassed to say it now, but the first Cuban I ever had was from a 7-Eleven. Seriously. Cuban sandwiches are so pervasive in Florida that even the local gas stations carry them. I picked up a Cuban sandwich, not knowing anything about it and handed it over to the cashier; what happened next surprised me.

He tossed on some gloves, took the sandwich out of the paper wrapper, buttered the outside of it and tossed it on what I now know was a plancha press: essentially a panini press without the ridges. After a minute or so he pulled the sandwich off of the press and put it back in the wrapper.

When I got outside I peeled back the wrapper and took a bite. My first thought was that a gas station sandwich had no business being this good. The second thought was more of a vow to research the Cuban sandwich, which I fulfilled. I took my time discovering them in some of the best spots in Florida, including the neighborhood in which they originated, Ybor City in Tampa.

A simple sandwich--roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard--carried so much impact that I even took the time to learn how to properly make one myself. You know, for all those times I’m not close to a 7-Eleven in Florida.

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This week on the Cooking with Fire podcast, Josh and Chef Tom make Mojo Pork Cubanos:

Mojo Pork Cubanos

  • 3 1/2 lb roast of boneless Boston butt pork shoulder
  • Mojo marinade (recipe below)
  • 6 oz thin sliced deli ham
  • 1/2 lb Swiss cheese, thin sliced
  • 3 whole dill pickles, sliced thin, lengthwise
  • yellow mustard
  • 6 (6” long) soft baguettes or heros, split lengthwise
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened

For the Mojo marinade:

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cilantro, minced
  • 1 tbsp orange zest, finely grated
  • 3/4 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, minced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  1. Combine all of the Mojo marinade ingredients (except salt and pepper) in a bowl. Whisk to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Transfer to a large zip top bag and add the pork. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into all sides of the pork. Place the bag in a foil pan or baking dish and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat your grill to 450°F, set up for indirect grilling, with a griddle, flat sides up, over the firebox. Remove the pork from the marinade. Wipe excess marinade from the surface. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Transfer to the second shelf of the smoker. Cook for about 45 minutes, just until the outside starts to brown.
  3. After 45 minutes, turn the grill down to 400ºF and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 170ºF, about two more hours. Remove from the grill and rest 30 minutes before slicing. Cut 1/4” thick slices.
  4. While the pork rests, cook the thin sliced deli ham on the flat surface of the griddle to brown the outside. Remove. Then, butter the cut sides of the bread and toast on the griddle. Remove. Place grill weights on the grill to preheat.
  5. Build the sandwiches. Two slices grilled ham, two slices roasted pork, one slice swiss cheese, two pickles and yellow mustard on the top bun.
  6. Butter the flat surface of the griddle. Place the sandwiches on the griddle, butter the tops of the bread then place the grill weight on top of the sandwiches. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown and the cheese is melting.