Though it’s unknown for sure, el Cubano is said to have originated in either southern Florida or Cuba, and was known to be a popular lunch item among cigar factory and sugar mill workers. Whoever that hungry person was who first put roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard together on bread and into a press should really be deified.
These is some debate about the preparation of roast pork for a Cuban sandwich. Some advocate a shoulder cut while others, a boneless loin. Some advocate marinating the pork in numerous ingredients – including lime juice, onions, cilantro, garlic, oregano – while others roast plainly seasoned with salt and pepper. For my recipe, I found a middle ground. I went with a pork loin since it’s easier to find and to work with, and instead of marinating, I butterflied it, added chopped garlic and cilantro, and tied it closed with twine before baking. This gave the pork a chance to be perfumed with garlic and cilantro from the inside out while roasting and, I must say, it came out simply phenomenal.
(Yield: 4 sandwiches)
1 1/2 lb boneless pork loin
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt + freshly ground black pepper
A large handful cilantro leaves, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 hoagie rolls
4 tsp brown mustard
1/4 lb sliced deli ham
4 slices Swiss cheese
Procedure: Preheat oven to 350F. Rinse pork loin and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a cutting board and slice into the loin horizontally, leaving a thin “hinge” to keep both halves together. Season the inside with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper and press cilantro and garlic into the meat. Press the meat closed and tie with kitchen twine in two places. Rub both sides of the loin with olive oil and season with more salt and pepper. Place into a baking dish.
Roast in the middle oven rack for 1 hour and 20 min. Remove from oven and let the meat rest for 20 min.
Preheat a griddle pan (or panini press) on medium heat. Untie the twine and discard. Slice the pork loin into 1/4″-thick slices.
To construct sandwiches, slice open hoagie rolls almost all the way through, leaving both halves intact. Spread mustard on bottom half and layer pork, ham, pickles and cheese on top. Close sandwiches and place on griddle (if your griddle is small, work with one sandwich at a time). Weigh the sandwich down with another heavy skillet/dish to keep it pressed together. Cook 1-2 min, flip, and cook until bread is crusty and cheese is melted (if using a panini press, cook 2-3 min). Cut in two and serve immediately.