To make Tampa-Style Cuban Sandwiches at home that rival the prize winners at the International Cuban Sandwich Festival, we found it essential to make the traditional Cuban bread ourselves. Our recipe for Cuban bread yielded golden loaves so cottony on the inside and crisp on the outside you’d think you were in the Sunshine State (the recipe can be found in the February/March 2020 edition of Cook’s Country).
For the filling, we built the sandwich in the traditional order: deli ham, Cuban roast pork, Genoa salami (a signature Tampa-only addition), Swiss cheese and finally pickles.
Our recipe for Cuban Roast Pork with Mojo yielded deeply seasoned pork that was silky and moist with a mojo-inspired citrus punch. We chilled the roast to make it easier to slice paper-thin, an important step in getting a clean, evenly pressed sandwich. Taking a cue from some creative cooks at the Tampa festival, we included a swipe of flavorful mojo sauce (from our Cuban Roast Pork recipe) on the bottom slice of bread for extra complexity and brightness. Adding the less traditional swipe of mayonnaise kept the sandwich moist. We put yellow mustard on only the top piece of bread so as not to overwhelm the sandwich.
For perfect pressing, we used a heavy Dutch oven to weigh down the sandwiches and yield a faint crispy edge that gives this sandwich a real wow factor.
We strongly prefer to use our Cuban Bread for this recipe. But if you don’t have the time to make it, you can use four 7- to 8-inch soft white Italian-style sub rolls or two 15-inch loaves of soft supermarket Italian or French bread. Do not use a thick-crusted rustic or artisan-style loaf or a baguette.
To make slicing the Cuban Roast Pork easier, be sure to chill it thoroughly beforehand. Mojo and mayonnaise aren’t typical ingredients in Tampa-style Cuban sandwiches, but they make nice additions.
1 loaf Cuban Bread (or Italian-style sub rolls or French bread)
1/4 cup mojo from Cuban Roast Pork with Mojo (recipe follows)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (optional)
12 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
10 ounces thinly sliced Cuban roast pork from Cuban Roast Pork with Mojo (2 cups)
3 ounces thinly sliced deli Genoa salami with peppercorns
6 ounces thinly sliced deli Swiss cheese
16 dill pickle chips
1/4 cup yellow mustard
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, divided
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200°F. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Cut bread in half crosswise, then cut each piece in half horizontally.
Brush bread bottoms with mojo, if using, and spread with mayonnaise, if using. Layer on ham, followed by pork, salami, cheese, and pickles, overlapping and/or folding meats as needed to keep them from overhanging sides of bread. Spread mustard on bread tops. Cap sandwiches with bread tops.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Place two sandwiches in skillet, right side up, in alternating directions, and spread far apart. Place heavy Dutch oven on top and cook until bottoms of sandwiches are uniformly golden brown and feel firm when tapped, 5-7 minutes, rotating sandwiches in skillet as needed. (You will need to flip sandwiches to tap them.)
Transfer sandwiches to cutting board. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in now-empty skillet. Return sandwiches to skillet toasted side up. Place Dutch oven on top and continue to cook until second side is uniformly golden brown and feels firm when tapped, 3-5 minutes longer.
Transfer toasted sandwiches to prepared wire rack and place in oven to keep warm. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Repeat with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and remaining two sandwiches. Cut sandwiches in half on steep diagonal and serve.
Cuban Roast Pork
For moist, tender Cuban roast pork that was great as a main course or in our recipe for Cuban Sandwiches, we found that the traditional, heavily acidic mojo marinade of sour orange juice, garlic, oregano, and cumin left the roasted meat dry and chewy.
Instead, we incorporated the traditional mojo flavors in other ways. An overnight dry rub with salt and brown sugar seasoned the meat more deeply and kept it moist during cooking, and adding lime and orange zest provided the mojo-like citrus punch you expect from Cuban roast pork.
To keep the sugar from burning at the bottom of the Dutch oven while the pork roasted, we added a little water to the pot and first braised the pork (covered until nearly done) and then uncovered it to roast until caramelized on the exterior and fork-tender.
Finally, we served the pork with a mojo sauce made with garlic, orange juice, and lime juice (to mimic the tart orange flavor of sour oranges) along with sweeter, fruitier pineapple juice to round out the sauce’s acidic sharpness.
Avoid buying a boneless pork butt wrapped in netting; it will contain smaller, separate lobes of meat rather than one whole roast. The pork will take longer to cook in a stainless-steel pot than in an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, the pot we used while developing the recipe. If you’re using a stainless-steel pot, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pot before affixing the lid.
If you plan to make Cuban sandwiches with the leftovers, it is best to slice only what you want to serve and then slice the chilled, leftover pork for the sandwiches. You will need about 10 ounces, or 2 cups, of pork and ¼ cup of mojo for the sandwiches. If using table salt, cut the amounts of salt in half.
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest (2 limes)
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
One 5-pound boneless pork butt with fat cap
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup lime juice (3 limes)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Thinly sliced onion rounds
For the pork: Combine salt, sugar, lime zest, orange zest, garlic, cumin, oregano and pepper flakes in bowl. Trim fat cap on pork to 1-4-inch. Cut 1-inch crosshatch pattern in fat cap.
Place pork on large double layer of
plastic wrap. Sprinkle pork all over with salt mixture. Wrap pork
tightly in plastic, place on plate, refrigerate 12-24 hours.
Adjust oven rack to middle position, heat oven to 325°F. Unwrap
pork; transfer to Dutch oven, fat side up; pour 2 cups water around pork. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat registers 175°F in center, 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
Uncover pork, continue to cook until meat registers 195°F in center and fork slips easily in and out of meat, 45 minutes to 1-3/4 hours longer. Transfer pork to carving board, tent with foil, let rest for 45 minutes.
Mojo: While pork is resting, heat oil and garlic in small saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until tiny bubbles appear and garlic is fragrant and straw-colored, 3-5 minutes. Let cool at least 5 minutes. Whisk pineapple, orange and lime juices, mustard, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano and pepper flakes into cooled garlic oil.
Slice pork as thin as possible (meat may shred; this is OK) transfer to platter. Serve with onion and mojo.