What Is A Cuban Sandwich And How Do You Make It?

The Cuban sandwich is a Florida-born dish that hits all the right places on our palette. Generally consisting of Cuban bread, ham, roast pork, cheese, and pickles (salami is included if you're in Ybor City, Florida), this island-inspired sandwich is generally considered an inspiration from the Southern Florida Cuban communities (via Kitchn). 

According to Thrillist, the flavors are said to be inspired by the cracker-like meat or seafood sandwiches of the Taíno tribe in Cuba, with the recipe becoming both widespread and Westernized into the dish we know today. Jorge Astorquiza, a food chemist in Tampa explains, "Traces of the sandwich originate back from the Indians, but the sandwich was really invented with what was brought from Spain."

When it comes to taste, you'll know this sandwich by the salty ham, crunchy briney pickle slices, crispy on the outside bread, layer of mild, nutty Swiss cheese and the savory but slightly sweet layer of roast pork with a spicy dash of mustard. The secret to the best Cuban sandwich is often held to be the use of a perfect artisan bread, but others will tell you the roasting of the pork or the crunch of the pickle makes all the difference. Basically, the best recipe is a matter of much debate and comes down to your personal taste preference.

Fortunately, the basics are pretty much agreed upon, so you can try your own recipe at home.

How to make a Cuban sandwich at home

The first thing you'll need to procure for your Cuban sandwich is a good bread. The Taíno tribe used a casabe bread, which is much like a cracker, while some Florida bakers swear by topping the loaf with a palmetto leaf for flavor. Cuban bread is a distinct type of bread that allows for a crispy exterior while still remaining soft and pliable on the inner part, preventing your sandwich from being too tough (via Serious Eats). If you can't find a true Cuban bread try checking at a local Latin-American bakery. In a pinch you can use a soft Italian or French loaf. It'll taste good, but it won't be authentic. Now grab yourself some slices of sweet ham, dill pickles, and Swiss cheese. Spread mustard across the sandwich bread.

The next big choice you'll face is how you get your pork. You can purchase ready-made pulled pork or roasted pork to use for your sandwich. If you prefer, you can slow cook your own pork using a mojo-style brine to create those delicious Cuban flavors filed with cumin and orange (via Food Network). Once you've added your pork, finish building the sandwich. 

Next, you'll want to grill and press the sandwich product. Many home cooks like to use a panini press for this part and it's definitely a popular method. If you don't have a press try cooking in a cast iron pan and some light oil or cooking spray. Grab another pan and weight it down with a brick or cans of food (anything heavy; it won't touch the food). Grill until everything is good and melty and enjoy the taste of a classic Cuban sandwich!