cubanos (cuban sandwiches) just like in the Chef movie

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I’ve long been wanting to make these sandwiches ever since I saw this foodie movie. I finally found a recipe (Nagi|RecipeTin Eats)  that claims it is a recreation of the cubanos featured in the movie! It is delicious. I usually follow a recipe exactly and afterward tweak it, but this time I ignored that. And I recommend cooking the pork by the pound than by a block of time, as pork has a tendency to dry out during roasting.

This recipe has been adapted for a little over 1 pound of pork (646g), enough for two people, maybe four. I added the tamarind paste and the honey because tamarind is piquant as well as sour. The honey adds a balance of flavor: salty, sweet, sour, and savory.

Everything is made from scratch, including the pork roast, so this is a 2 day effort. One day to marinate the pork, and another day to roast it and assemble the sandwiches.

Cuban Mojo Roast Pork
Prep time: 25 minutes
Marinating time: 12-24 hours
Roasting time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Marinade
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro
Zest of one small orange
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (2 small oranges)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (2 small limes)
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons mint leaves
4 large garlic cloves
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste

Pork
About 650 grams boneless and skinless pork shoulder

Mojo Sauce
Reserved marinade
Pan drippings
2 tablespoons lime juice, optional
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, optional
Honey, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the pork. One day before roasting, combine marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. Taste the marinade. I like it salty, sour, and with a hint of sweet.

Place the pork with the marinade poured over in a large zipper lock bag in a bowl, to catch any drips. Place in the fridge overnight. If you are concerned about plastic use, you can place the pork with the marinade in a 1 quart bowl with a glass lid. Turn the pork several times, or whenever you remember on opening the fridge.

Bake the pork in a slow oven. Take the pork out of the fridge and let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 150˚C/300˚F. Place the pork on a rack in a roasting pan. Spray pan with cooking oil for easy clean up. If you don’t have a rack, slice a couple of onions and put the pork on top of that. Roast, uncovered, 40 minutes per pound, until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 180˚F on an instant read thermometer.

Remove dish from oven and place the pork on a baking tray lined with foil. Reserve the pan juices. Let the pork rest 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 475˚F/245˚C. Roast the pork 13-17 minutes, uncovered, for the meat to get brown and the fat to get crunchy. Carve and serve.

Make the mojo sauce. While the pork is resting or browning, combine the reserved marinade and the reserved roasting pan drippings into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then taste. The sauce should be salty tart and sweet. If you wish, you may want to add additional lime juice, orange juice, or even a touch of honey. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat down and simmer 1 minute, then remove from the stove and set aside.

Serve pork with mojo sauce and rice and peas (Jamaican rice and beans) or coconut rice. Or slice the pork to make Cubanos. Save the mojo sauce and onions as dipping sauce for the Cubanos. This isn’t traditional, but it is delicious.

Cubanos for two
Cuban Mojo Roast Pork, sliced
French bread sliced into six inch buns
4 slices of ham
2-4 slices of Swiss cheese
Pickles*
Dijon mustard
Butter
*I’m not fond of pickles, so I sliced some fresh cucumbers and let them sit in white vinegar for a few minutes.

Split the French bread horizontally but leave a hinge. Butter both cut slices and toast the buttered sides on the grill. Lightly grill the ham slices. Spread mustard on one of the toasted sides. Layer pork generously on the other toasted side. Top pork with grilled ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. Be generous with the fillings!

Butter the outside of both the top and bottom buns. Grill sandwich in a pannini press. If you haven’t got a pannini press, you can improvise with a griddle. Spread a sheet of parchment on top of the bread and press down on top with another heavy pan. Put a couple large unopened cans of food to weight down the pan. It’s quite safe and the pan will never get hot enough to build pressure inside the cans. If it concerns you, you can fill a small kettle of water halfway and use that instead. After 3 minutes, flip the sandwich over and grill 3 minutes on the second side. Of course, with a pannini press you won’t need to flip. The cheese should be melty and the bread golden and crispy.