Nephew John and family came for a visit on Thursday, bearing Cuban sandwiches from Tampa. (From The Floridian, to be exact.) Oh, bliss!
These are the iconic sandwiches of my youth -- picnics, road trips, sailing excursions, a crowd coming over, all called for these wonderful sandwiches, available for take-out at many, many restaurants and cafes. Our high school even offered a not-all-that-bad version in the cafeteria. Every day.
I can reproduce a lot of the Cuban/Tampa food I grew up with -- Arroz Amarillo can Pollo, Caldo Gallego, Flan de Leche, Picadillo, Ropa Vieja are all on our menu now and then. But Cuban sandwiches, alas, are beyond my reach.
It's all about the bread. I've tried to make Cuban bread but it's never the same -- not light (lighter than French bread) inside and paper thin and crackly-crusted on the outside. Can't do it and if anyone can tell me they have, I beg for the recipe.
If I did have Cuban bread . . . the ham and salami and cheese are easily come by -- but then there's the matter of the mojo roast pork -- not available in my neck of the woods. I could make it but don't have the professional slicer needed to turn out the paper thin slices required.
These sandwiches didn't come with the Swiss cheese -- whether a choice or an oversight I don't know but I added a bit of a mild grated cheese mix. Also a mustard/mayonnaise combo and plenty of dill pickles. (Many consider it heresy but had I had a decent tomato in the house, I might have added tomato and lettuce after the sandwich was heated. But this is January and there are no decent tomatoes.)
Into the oven to heat till the cheese melted and all that meat was warm.
Oh, heavenly! And to think that as I child I occasionally said, "What? Cuban sandwiches again?"
HERE is a terrific article about the origin of Tampa Cuban sandwiches.