Picking The Right Bread For A Cuban Sandwich Is Everything

The Cuban sandwich, unlike french toast or Russian dressing, does seem to have been birthed in its eponymous country, although the Cuban sandwich as we now know and love it owes more to Florida's long-entrenched Cuban community. In fact, if you really want to make the best possible version of the sandwich, it'll probably help if you're living in Miami, or possibly New York or Los Angeles, or anywhere else with a large Cuban-American population. The reason for this is that there's one particular ingredient that won't be so easy to come by in areas where the Cuban diaspora hasn't settled.

As the title tells us, bread — specifically Cuban bread — is a crucial element of this sandwich. Well, bread, of course, is an important part of every sandwich, since without it what you have is a mess (or possibly a salad, if the filling is heavy on lettuce). For a Cuban sandwich, Cuban bread is the best kind, even though in this day and age it may not be baked with the traditional palmetto leaf on top. Mashed recipe developer Tara Rylie, however, does offer an acceptable alternative for anyone without access to a Cuban bakery or grocer. She says that Italian or French bread can also work quite well in her Cuban sandwich recipe since they have the requisite sturdiness to support all of its fillings.

Okay, maybe not everything, since you'll still need some fillings

Bread alone does not a sandwich make, however, since without the fillings what you'll have is ... a piece of bread. Staff of life and all that, but still pretty boring and not much of a meal. Throw on ham and pulled pork and maybe salami, though, and you've got the beginnings of a very pig-centric sandwich. (Pork products are particularly popular in the Cuban community.) Opting for salami, however, implies picking a side in the great sandwich debate between the cities of Tampa and Miami: Tampa-style says yes to salami, while Miami prefers to save it for pizza.

But wait, that's not all you need to make a Cuban sandwich! Traditional toppings include Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles. Oh, and mayonnaise, too, if you're making your sandwich Tampa-style, which is what Rylie prefers. At this point you're pretty much done, although many people, Rylie included, prefer their sandwich toasted — this is one reason why she's so insistent on using thick, sturdy bread. If you have a panini press, this would be a good chance to finally get some use out of it, but if this gadget doesn't have a place in your kitchen arsenal you can always go with the tried-and-true fake that involves a cast iron frying pan and another heavy pan on top to weight down the 'wich. Optional but recommended pairings for the Cuban sandwich include cafe con leche and a side of Celia Cruz.