Cubano (The Cuban Sandwich)
Although the Cuban sandwich is not usually found in Cuba, when it is on a menu, the flavors are a refreshing turn from the more common grilled cheese or jamón y queso (ham and cheese). The pickle planks and mustard are difficult to come by, and most markets don’t carry them now, but when put in a sandwich they add an unmistakably Cuban zest. The best place for a Cubano is the lively Callejon de Hamel in Havana on Sunday afternoons. If you can withstand the crowds and arrive early enough, this alley of street art and Afro-Caribbean-influenced shops is the best place to learn about the religion Santería and its traditions. While Cuba doesn’t have official food carts, the local chef on the street has his own version of a Cubano stand, with all of the fixings and a smile you won’t soon forget.
1 loaf Cuban bread
4 Tbsp unsalted butter,
8 slices Swiss or Jack cheese
(about ½ lb)
¼ cup yellow mustard
16 slices maple-glazed honey ham
(about 1 lb)
16 slices hot capicola (about 1lb)
8–12 slices sweet dill pickle planks
You can use a panini press, a sauté pan, or a grill—just like the chef on Hamel does. If you are using a panini press, preheat to medium-high. Layer the bread with butter, cheese, and mustard.
On one half of each sandwich, layer 4 slices of maple-glazed honey ham and 4 slices of capicola. Add 2–3 pickle planks on top of the meat and close the sandwich. Place the sandwich in the panini press, grill, or sauté pan (medium-high heat), and put something heavy and heat proof on top. You want to really bond the layers together to bring out the flavor. Cook until the cheese is melted and the outside is slightly charred and crisped, which will take about 5 minutes.
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