Last night’s sandwich: I’m Cuban, B!

Yes, Cuban B! Sandwich Week continues.

The Sandwich: A Cuban sandwich, from the kitchen of the analog TedQuarters in Westchester.

I understand there’s some debate as to what constitutes an “authentic” Cuban sandwich, just like some people will tell you there should never be lettuce in a burrito because burritos were originally intended to be brought out to fields by farm workers and lettuce would have wilted or rotted in the heat.

It’s all nonsense. Trace any food item back to its roots and you’ll find it developed out of some sort of cultural exchange. There’s no need to stop the timeline of sandwich evolution at one specific point. Whether or not this is the exact sandwich made in Cuba is immaterial. This is my interpretation of the popular Cuban sandwich.

The construction: We used smaller Portuguese rolls instead of Cuban or French bread because, well, I plan to eat a lot of sandwiches this week and I’d prefer not to die. On one side I put yellow mustard, on the other I put an aioli I made (that’s right, I make aioli) with roasted garlic and hot peppers from our garden.

I sliced leftover pork from the tenderloin I hickory-smoked on Sunday afternoon and put it on the roll with deli ham, provolone and sandwich-stacker pickles. Then I lightly buttered the top and bottom of the roll and pressed the whole thing in a Foreman grill until the cheese melted and the bread was slightly browned.

Important background information: I am not Cuban. My friend Charlie, who inadvertently turned TedQuarters into SandwichQuarters with a text message last week, is Cuban, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him enjoying a Cuban sandwich. He’s obviously a man of distinguishing sandwich taste, though, so I have no doubt he would.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Damn good, if I do say so myself. The smoky flavor of the pork was honestly a bit overwhelming when we ate the pork on its own Sunday night, but in context of the sandwich it was just a nice extra kick. And it was really tender, too — no need to worry about big pieces of pork sliding out of the sandwich when you bit into it. Even consistency is an important factor in sandwich goodness.

The garlic and hot pepper aioli was real, real good, too. I’ve never gardened before in my life, but it turns out there’s something amazingly satisfying about growing your own vegetables, especially when you’re going to smash them and mix them with mayonnaise. Holy crap, look at all these cucumbers and peppers. And they’re all free now thanks to all that work we did a few months ago! Screw you, ShopRite, we don’t need your string beans anymore.

The bread was good too. And the pickles were predictably delicious. The cheese tasted like cheese. Awesome, awesome cheese.

The only problem was that, between the mayo, the ham and the butter on the roll, it was a bit greasy. Sat kinda heavy in the stomach.

What it’s worth: Well like I said, we planted the peppers months ago so that didn’t take much work. Roasting the garlic and putting it all in the Chopster then mixing it with mayonnaise wasn’t hard either. I smoked the pork Sunday and this was just leftover, so that was gravy, so to speak. Plus my wife picked up the ham, pickles and rolls at the grocery store so that didn’t require any work on my part. Basically, the only thing I had to do was construct the sandwich and throw it on the Foreman grill, which took all of five minutes.

So since the cost was minimal and the benefit in deliciousness was high, this was sandwich was a huge net win. Actually I thought it was better than the Chilean number that rated as one of NY Magazine’s Top 101 sandwiches in New York, so I’m patting myself on the back for that. It was good enough I feel the need to come up with some sort of completely arbitrary numerical rating system for the series.

The rating: 78 out of 100. I have very high standards, and a sandwich needs to be worth traveling great distances for to crack 90 and life-changing to hit 100. A 78 is a very good sandwich. And I’m going to go back and give the Chacarero Completo a 56.

4 thoughts on “Last night’s sandwich: I’m Cuban, B!

  1. What makes a Cuban sandwich Cuban? I had sort of this sandwich, but without any meat, at a highway restaurant in Cuba, and that thing was seriously satisfying. Just cheese (don’t know what kind) and pickles with a mayo-mustardy spread on a roll, warmed. I was bummed that the restaurant didn’t have much and I was going to have to settle for cheese on a roll, but dang, it was tasty.

    • The Wikipedia says: As with Cuban bread, the origin of the Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a “Cuban mix”, “mixto sandwich”, or “Cuban Pressed Sandwich”) is somewhat murky.[4] The sandwich became a common lunch food for workers in both the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba and the cigar factories of Ybor City around 1900.[1][5]

      At that time, travel between Cuba and Florida was easy, and Cubans frequently sailed back and forth for employment, pleasure, and family visits. Because of this constant and largely undocumented movement of people and culture and ideas, it’s impossible to say exactly when and where the Cuban sandwich first became a common worker’s meal.[1] By around 1910, however, workers’ cafés in Cuba, Ybor City, and the older Cuban enclave of Key West were serving many such sandwiches daily.[6][7][8]

  2. Ted, if you’ll allow the tangent: what kind of hot peppers were they, if you recall? I have jalapenos growing and a couple almost ready to pick, and realized I don’t really know what to do with them?

    • They were Hot Portugal peppers, which I had never heard of before I saw them at the nursery. They said they grew well in our climate and they were high yield, so we went for it. They just look like standard hot peppers, long and red and curly. Pretty delicious. It turns out all peppers are the same species. Who knew?

      I’m also growing jalapenos, but they’re not ready to harvest yet. They’re a pretty versatile pepper, though — you can throw ’em on pretty much any sandwich raw, or I guess stuff ’em with cheese and deep fry ’em, or use them to flavor any number of delicious Mexican dishes. We’re planning on cutting them up for use in guacamole.

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