A Cuban Sandwich is not your ordinary ham and cheese sandwich. Yes, the components are pretty typical – bread, meat and cheese. But when the ingredients are combined and then pressed and heated through, you’ve got yourself a terrific Sandwich Cubano as they say in Spanish.
I’ve never been to Cuba actually, but I really love a Cuban Sandwich. I’m not sure if they serve a Sandwich Cubano in Cuba but they are popular in Miami and Key West. I love sandwiches in general but the ones pressed between too hot plates are my favourite for two reasons. 1 – the cheese gets all nice and melty. 2 – you can load up the sandwich with lots of layers and a thick bun but once it’s pressed, it’s flat enough to eat without dislocating your jaw.Jump to Recipe
What’s in a Cuban Sandwich?
So what is actually in a Cuban Sandwich? Ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles and mustard. Yes, that’s it! It’s a great way to use up leftover cooked pork roast. The secret is to slice it very very thin across the grain so it’s not tough. Then layer it over a generously buttered bun with sliced deli ham, Swiss cheese and sandwich sliced dills. You can buy the pickles this way or slice your own. Dry the pickles on some paper towel before adding them to the sandwich so the brine doesn’t make your sandwich soggy.
It doesn’t matter in what order you make the sandwich. Some people like a slice of cheese on each end. Some people don’t want their mustard touching the cheese. Me? I would do mustard, ham, pork, pickle, cheese. But since there’s no sandwich police, go ahead and layer your Sandwich Cubano any way you like. And good old regular yellow mustard is traditional but feel free to go crazy and use grainy or hot mustard.
The best bread for any pressed sandwich is a dense bun or hearty crusty bread. If it’s too light weight you’ll just end up with a paper thin mushy sandwich exterior. My favourite for Cuban Sandwiches are square Ciabatta buns. They’re dense with lots of holes for the cheese to melt into. And you can really press and heat them while still preserving the integrity of the bun. That sounds really formal when talking about bread but you know what I mean right? There is such thing as Cuban bread but it’s not easily found where I live so Ciabatta is the next best thing. And since it’s square the cheese slices and pickle strips fit perfectly.
How to press a Cuban Sandwich
A panini press is the best way to press and grill your Cuban Sandwich but there are a few other options to get similar results. If you have a heavy griddle for your stove top, preferable one with ridges, you can press and heat your sandwich, flipping to get both sides perfectly browned with those signature grill marks. Or even a heavy frying pan or two, one on top with something to weigh it down. The most important thing is getting your Cuban heated through and the cheese melted.
Spritz or brush a light coating of oil on the panini press or right on the top of the bun to help brown and crisp up the bread. Use an oil that can withstand some heat with a mild flavour like vegetable or canola oil. Olive oil isn’t great with high heat. That being said, you want the grill to be quite hot but not so hot that the bread gets too crusty before the inside has time to heat through.
Similar to Monte Cristo, any grilled sandwich with melty cheese is a hit in my house. Serve your Sandwich Cubano with some chips and a pickle. And I highly recommend tuning Spotify or Sirius to Cuban Classics, which I’m listening to right now.
Here’s the recipe:
- 4 square Ciabatta buns
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 4 tsp yellow mustard
- 8 slices deli ham
- 8-12 oz thinly sliced cooked pork roast or substitute pork deli meat
- 12 slices sandwich dills, patted dry
- 4 slices Swiss cheese or more if required to fill bun
- vegetable oil for spritzing or brushing on bread not olive oil
- Split buns (if not already sliced) and butter generously.
- Spread mustard evenly on one bun. Arrange deli ham over top, cutting to fit within the bun. Repeat with thinly sliced pork.
- Pat pickle slices dry on paper towel. Lay 3 slices side by side over meat. Top with cheese, then bun.
- Heat panini press to medium high heat. Spritz top and bottom of bun or panini grills with oil. Lay 2 sandwiches inside and press gently, holding sandwiches in place with heat resistant tool (such as handle of a wooden spoon) to prevent them from sliding out. Allow to grill, pressing more as the sandwich softens, until the bread has a golden crust and cheese is melting. Repeat with other 2 sandwiches.
- Allow to cool slightly, then slice in half diagonally.