Bri and I were craving Cuban sandwiches for lunch today. I had the (clearly brilliant) idea to grab a slice of pizza for lunch and hit the market for some ingredients to make our own Cubanos for dinner. Our first stop was Mara Bakery in Elizabeth, NJ for some authentic Cuban bread. Then we stopped off at a local grocery store for some Mojo, pork butt, swiss cheese, pickles, deli ham and yellow mustard.
First things first, I put the pork butt directly into an enameled cast iron dutch oven and poured enough Mojo into the pot to cover the pork about 2/3 of the way. You can make your own Mojo, but I used the Goya brand because tracking down bitter oranges on short notice wasn’t going to happen. I’d already managed to convince my husband to drive an hour round trip just for the right bread (the belly full of meatball parm helped) but by the time we were headed to the local grocery store he had already slipped into a food coma in the passenger seat.
I marinated the pork butt in the Mojo for about 3 hours. I’m sure marinating over night would have been ideal, but we’re impatient.
I preheated the oven to 425F and parked the butt in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes. I then lowered the heat to 350F and covered the dutch oven loosely with aluminum foil. About 3 hours later the pork was fork tender. Shred the pork with a couple of forks and pour some of the mojo from the dutch oven over the pork. (Or just put the pork back into the dutch oven – which is what I did.)
Slice your sandwich bread completely open so you have two separate halves. Authentic Cuban bread has a firm exterior and a very soft interior. Its also usually quite pale in color so that it doesn’t over brown when pressed. If you can’t find authentic bread, use a sub roll but know that you’re not going to get a true Cuabno.
Put down a few slices of ham and then layer the thinly sliced pickles over it. I sliced the pickles with a vegetable peeler.
Drain some of the excess Mojo off of the shredded pork and put down an even layer over the sandwich. Ideally it should be 50/50 ham to pork ratio. Then cover the pork with a bit of yellow mustard.
Finally, lay down a few slices of swiss cheese.
Put the top half of the bread on and let it hang out for a bit while you prep the cooking apparatus.
Shockingly enough, I do not own a sandwich press. I’ll let you take a moment to digest the fact that there is in fact a cooking appliance that I do not own….
I covered the bottom of my (very heavy) 7 quart dutch oven with aluminum foil. I heated a griddle pan over medium low and then brushed the tops of the sandwiches with melted butter.
Place the sandwiches butter-side down (if you’re one of those butter side up people – no need to start a war over it, the butter is going on both sides, I promise) into the griddle. Place the dutch oven (or some other aluminum foil covered heavy thing) on top of the sandwiches and let the weight of the pan smoooosh the bread.
Set your timer for 90 seconds and wait.
After 90 seconds check and see that the bread touching the griddle has gotten crispy and ever so slightly golden.
Butter the bread and flip. Set the timer for 45 seconds.
The sandwich is done when the bread on both sides is crispy and golden. The cheese should be melted and the sandwich should be warm all the way through. Cut on a sharp diagonal (make 2 triangles) and serve immediately!