A trip to Florida makes me hungry for Cuban.
In California, I am all about the delicious Mexican food. El Cholo (at the original location on Western Ave in Los Angeles, of course) is not only one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, it is one of my absolute favorite restaurants. Everything is just delicious, and the atmosphere is casually classy and laid back.
In Florida, the specialty is Cuban food and in California it is Mexican food; as you can imagine, it is heavily due to the proximity of each state to their respective countries. Now, I should be fair to say Los Angeles has some great Cuban restaurants like Versailles and El Colmao and parts of Florida have some wonderful Mexican restaurants like La Fiesta in Gainesville, FL or even the gourmet Mexican Restaurant chain, Cantina Laredo that you can find in several states (but not California). This is 2011; great food and people that make great food can be thousands of miles from the homeland.
However, the Cuban sandwich takes me back to my college days in Florida when Zach and I first started dating in Gainesville. We became regulars at this hip little Cuban bakery called Flaco's . It was where I fell in love with the Cuban sandwich. I rarely order a Cuban sandwich anywhere anymore; there are usually much more exciting option on the menu of a good Cuban restaurant like ropa vieja, beans and rice and fried plantains (sweet or unsweet are both fine by me!). But I sometimes find myself craving one of the two type of Cubans Zach and I used to share at Flaco's: the standard Cuban or the Medianoche (which was made with their special slightly sweetened bread). They used the most delicious Cuban-style shredded pork and the freshest, soft-on-the-inside-crunchy-on-the-outside pressed Cuban breads.
Cuban sandwiches are so simple to make at home. Yuu will never make them as well as Flaco; I can promise you that. But you can make some pretty-darn satisfying sandwiches with just a tiny bit more effort than it would take you to make a standard ole' ham and cheese sannie.
The Cuban Sandwich
(makes 4 6-inch sandwiches)
*1/2 lb Pork (shredded Cuban pork is the best, but you can use sliced roasted pork from the deli counter at the grocery store. If that is not an option, I would suggest roast beef as a last resort)
*1/2 lb Ham
*1/2 lb Swiss cheese
*Pickles (sliced lengthwise)
*Mustard (regular mustard works the best, but I have used specialty mustards to change things up)
*Fresh Cuban bread (1 long one should work) - (You can use a baguette if you cannot find Cuban bread, especially if you are going to press the sandwich anyway)
I don't think I really need to explain what you do next besides just saying, "assemble the sandwich".
You can eat your delicious sandwich at this point if you wish, but I suggest pressing it if you own some sort panini or sandwich press. You may want to lightly spread some oil, butter or butter-type spread on the outside of the bread before placing the sandwich into the press. If you are pressing, I would also suggest putting the ham on the bottom, then the shredded pork, then the cheese, then the pickles on top (the mustard can be slathered onto the bread directly). This way, the cheese melts right into the shredded pork. Yum.
Note: I did not have a press to use this time so I just stuck the sandwiches in the oven on a low setting to give them a little crunch.