Check below the post for an update on the Harry & David giveaway.
I had the chance to tour the college town where my baby sister, Airlia, has been for the last two years with my mom and another of my sisters last weekend. We went up one side of Ithaca and down the other in sensible shoes (thank HEAVENS for sensible shoes when walking through a town that is essentially planted on the side of a cliff.) One thing Airlia really wanted us to see was the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. The market was beautiful. It was full of vendors selling seemingly everything; vegetables, meats, potted plants, pottery, jewelry, clothing and ready to eat food. Oh, that ready to eat food…
It was ethnic food heaven.
My mom and sisters parked themselves in front of a Japanese food vendor to get tofu pockets stuffed with sushi. I glanced around… I really, REALLY wanted to go to the Cambodian food vendor, but the line was snaked around the corner and the market was going to close in less than half an hour. I doubted I’d get to the front of the line and my stomach was doing the talking. After mom, Jess and Air got their tofu pockets, we started strolling toward the end of the market we hadn’t explored yet and then the heavens illuminated and angelic voices sang in a glorious choir while pointing at the place I was destined to eat my lunch: the Cuban sandwiches vendor.
“OH CUBANS! THEY HAVE CUBANS. I LOVE CUBANS!!!!!” I hollered as I ran toward the table. I saw my mom and sisters looking around in the background, trying to figure out what I was talking about. “She loves Cubans? What is she talking about? Where are the Cubans?”
Oh, Cuban sandwiches, how I do love thee. It’s a meat lover’s sandwich. This is why my mom and sisters didn’t understand my reaction- they’re all vegetarians. Not only is it for meat eaters, but it is unapologetically so; it’s crammed full of ham, shredded pork, salami (in Miami, but not in Cuba), pickles, cheese and yellow mustard, then slathered with butter and pressed between two hot pans or on a spiffy non-ridged panini kind of thingy. (That is the technical term for the apparatus.)
The bread gets squished around all those magical porky fillings and pickles and mustard and becomes DEAD crisp and buttery on the outside. Oh my gosh, people. A sandwich just doesn’t get any better than this.
Sandwich PSA: Now I want to address something super important about sandwiches. Do not just lay that meat flat on the bread, for the love of all that is good, don’t flop the meat on the bread and call it a day. Please. I beg you. Take some time with the placement of meat on a sandwich. It’s the difference between a SANDWICH and meat on bread. Yes, I realize that I sound crazy and picky right now, but give this a try the next time you make a sandwich. Hold the meat by one end so that it hangs down. Place the bottom edge of the deli meat against the edge of the bread and then let the meat fold -almost accordion like- as it falls onto the bread. I’m telling you, it’s fah-hah-habulous and makes all the difference in the world. Trust me. I worked in a deli in high school.
Let’s have a little chat about how we achieve ultimate Cuban Sandwich-ness, because it doesn’t require all kinds of fancy equipment, but it DOES require a little advance planning and faithful use of oven mitts. Here’s what ya do. You line a nice baking sheet with heavy-duty foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Butter your future Cuban sandwiches top and bottom (as in on the very top of the top half of the roll and the very bottom of the bottom half of the roll. Lay them out with a couple of inches between each sandwich.
Spray another piece of heavy duty foil and lay it spray-side down on the sandwiches. Lay another baking sheet on top of the foil. Be sure the pan you have chosen for the top will not rest on the rim of the bottom pan. For instance, use a flat pan on the bottom with a rimmed one on the top (rim facing upward) or use two pans that can nest inside each other for storage. This will allow maximum squish-age on the sandwiches. You can definitely double decker the pans if you’re feeding a regiment like I am. You WILL have to rotate the pans, bottom to top or vice versa midway through cooking.
When that goes into the hot oven, lay seriously heavy pots or landscaping bricks that preheated with the oven on top of the top pan. This is the only tricky bit… the goal is to evenly weigh the top pan down so you get even squashing of the sandwiches…
Then, when all is said and done you get these.
Oh man. Oh goodness. Oh heavens to Betsy. How badly do you want to eat these? As badly as I do? I’ll fight ya for ‘em.
- Per Sandwich:
- 1 Portuguese roll or ciabatta roll
- 2 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 2-4 slices baked ham or ham off of the bone
- 2 slices salami
- ½-3/4 cup of shredded, fully cooked pork. I prefer homemade Cuban Pork , of course
- 1 slice Swiss cheese
- 2-4 thin slices garlic or kosher dill pickles
- 1 tablespoon softened butter
- non-stick cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 500°F with a heavy cast iron skillet or landscaping bricks in it.
- Line a baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Halve the roll and lay it cut sides up on a cutting board. Spread the mustard evenly over the insides of the roll. On one side, pile the ham then the pickles then the cheese then the salami. On the other half, spread the shredded pork and lightly press it into the bun. Turn it over onto the other half of the roll. Spread half of the butter on the top of the top roll and half of the butter on the bottom of the bottom roll. Position it on the lined baking sheet. Repeat with as many sandwiches as you're making, being sure to leave enough room between the sandwiches for them to spread as they're squashed.
- Spray another piece of heavy-duty foil lightly with nonstick cooking spray and lay it -sprayed side down- on the sandwiches. Put another pan on top, put into the oven and weigh it down with as much oven-safe heavy stuff as you can muster. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, the bread is toasted and golden brown and the whole sandwich is hot through and through.
- Serve immediately.
In news unrelated to sandwiches, I’ve picked a winner for the Harry & David Bear Creek Gift Basket. Scoot right over here and see if you were the winner!!