What is a Cuban Sandwich?
"A Cuban sandwich is a variation of a ham and cheese originally created by Cuban workers, in Cuba. In the 1870's, Cubans brought it to other communities in southern Florida, particularly Key West and Miami where it is very popular. The sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami (as in the Ybor City version) on Cuban bread."
"As with Cuban bread, the origin of the Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a "Cuban mix") is somewhat murky. The sandwich became a common lunch food for workers in both the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba and the cigar factories of Key West in the 1870's."
"At that time, travel between Cuba and Florida was easy, and Cubans frequently sailed back and forth for employment, pleasure, and family visits. Because of this blending of culture and ideas, it’s impossible to say where the Cuban sandwich first became a common worker’s meal. By around 1910, however, workers’ cafés in Cuba, Key West and Ybor City were serving many such sandwiches daily."
"The Cuban sandwich was served in kiosks, coffee bars and casual restaurants throughout Cuba, especially in the big cities such as Havana or Santiago de Cuba. Years later, Miami also gained a resident Cuban population. By the 1960's, Cuban sandwiches were common on Miami cafeteria and restaurant menus, and are still very popular there today."
"While there is some debate as to the contents of a “true” Cuban sandwich, most are generally agreed upon.
- The traditional Cuban sandwich starts with Cuban bread. The loaf is sliced into lengths of 8-12 inches (20-30 cm), lightly buttered on the crust, and cut in half horizontally.
- Then roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, and thinly-sliced dill pickles are added in layers. Sometimes the pork is marinated in mojo and slow roasted."
The main regional disagreement about the sandwich’s recipe is whether or not to include salami. In Tampa, Genoa salami is traditionally layered in with the other meats, probably due to influence of Italian immigrants who lived side-by-side with Cubans and Spaniards in Ybor City. In Miami, salami is left out."
"In Key West, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato are usually added. These additions are often available in restaurants in Tampa and Miami, but are frowned upon by traditionalists there."
Toast in a sandwich press
"When assembled, the sandwich is lightly toasted in a sandwich press called a plancha, which is only somewhat similar to a panini press but without grooved surfaces. The plancha both heats and compresses the sandwich, which remains in the press until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted. It is usually cut into diagonal halves before serving."
"A very similar and popular sandwich is the medianoche or "midnight" sandwich, so named because of the sandwich's popularity as a staple served in Havana's night clubs right around or after midnight. It is smaller in size and contains the same ingredients as a Cuban sandwich, minus the glazed ham, and made on a softer bread made from a sweet yellow egg dough, similar to challah."
"Following the Castro-led Communist Revolution in 1959, Cuban expatriates spread these sandwiches (along with other foods and elements of Cuban culture) to Cuban exile communities in New York, Miami, Chicago, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico, among other places."
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