My first Cuban sandwich came many years ago at the Dinosaur Barbque. Their version includes pulled pork, smoked ham, swiss cheese and homemade pickles in a hoagie roll. Not a true Cuban, as I would learn later, but the inspiration for many copycat versions consumed for dinner around these parts for years.
A true Cuban, as I’ve learned over time, is made with a pork loin and served on crusty Cuban-style pressed bread. I had pork loin, but Cuban bread is a little tougher to come by outside of Cuban enclaves like Miami or Ybor City.
The medianoche, or midnight, is a take on the traditional Cuban. They get their name from their origin as a late-night snack eaten in Havana nightclubs. The big difference is that they are typically made on sweet egg bread, like a challah, and pressed flat.
Wegmans was clean out of challah on Sunday, naturally, as I had planned to make these for dinner that evening. Instead, I went for the super soft Vienna rolls made in the bakery. These are a fluffier, airier version of the traditional kaiser roll. The idea came from a recipe I had found on Serious Eats some time ago. Now that I have the panini maker, pressing these sandwiches are little easier.
WHAT WORKED: The leftover smoked pork loin. While I would ordinarily make a Cuban-style mojo pork, I had outdone myself with the extra juicy smoked loin that was on hand.
WHAT DIDN’T: The pickles. I was hoping for something with a more pronounced vinegar flavor. Not quite sour, but more tangy than what Wegmans carries. It didn’t detract from the recipe, but didn’t add what I was hoping for.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: She approved, or at least it seemed that way. She destroyed her sandwich in an almost unladylike way. We need to teach her some table manners.
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I would think so. Next time, I want the damn challah bread.
Adapted from Maria del Mar Sacasa and Serious Eats
- 1 1/2 pounds pork loin (I used the leftovers from a previous dinner, but a roasted pork tenderloin like Maria’s recipe works. In a pinch, prepared but sauceless pulled pork would suffice.)
- 1/2 lb. deli ham, sliced thin
- eight thin slices of mild swiss cheese
- dill pickle chips or sandwich slices
- country style or whole grain dijon mustard
- four soft rolls or large enough piece of challah bread to make four sandwiches
Preheat a panini press. Assemble the sandwiches by layering even amounts of the following in order: 2-3 slices of ham folded over, one slice of swiss cheese, 2-3 slices of pork, pickles, and another slice of cheese. Spread a very thin layer of dijon mustard on the roll and top. Place on the panini maker and press the lid to flatten. Lock the lid in place and cook until the cheese begins to melt, approximately 5 to 6 minutes.