Cubano sandwiches inspire as much passion, debate, and hunger in Miami as clam chowder does in New England or tamales do in Texas, so I want to get this out of the way right up front: This is not an authentic cubano sandwich. It features many of the essentials of the classic—such as roasted pork, ham, and pickles—but I also add an onion and jalapeño relish and Gruyère cheese. It’s my riff on one of my favorite sandwiches.
True cubanos are made on a hot sandwich press, which this recipe approximates by using a heavy skillet to weight the sandwich down as it cooks. You can also use a foil-wrapped brick or another heavy-bottomed pan.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup thinly sliced Spanish onion (do not halve the onion before slicing—you want rings)
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, drained and finely chopped
1 loaf Cuban bread or (seedless) Italian bread
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 large kosher dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 pound leftover or store-bought roasted pork (preferably marinated or cooked with mojo), thinly sliced
1 pound honey-smoked ham, thinly sliced
¼ pound Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
¼ pound Gruyère, thinly sliced
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the pickled jalapeños and transfer to a bowl. Set aside. Wipe out the pan and set it aside.
Cut the loaf of bread horizontally in half; then cut crosswise into four pieces. Spread 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon mustard inside each section of bread.
Build the sandwiches by dividing the pickles, pork, ham, spicy onion mixture, Swiss cheese, and Gruyère, in that order, among the bottom halves of the bread sections. Set the tops of the bread in place. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwiches, in batches if necessary, in the pan and weight them with a clean heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) to compress the sandwiches. Cook until golden on the first side, about 3 minutes. Remove the top skillet, turn the sandwiches over, replace the skillet, and cook until they are golden on the other side and the cheese is melted about 3 more minutes.
Slice each sandwich diagonally in half and serve hot.
“My Cubano” is excerpted from Cuisine à Latina by Michelle Bernstein, ©2008. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.