Citizens, we continue our 2-day culinary tour of North Florida today with a visit to the fine city of Tampa!
The deservedly famous Cuban sandwich is a variation of a ham and cheese sandwich that was often made in cafes catering to Cuban workers in the early Cuban immigrant communities of Florida: Key West and Ybor City, Tampa.
Later on, Cuban exiles and expatriates brought it to Miami, where it is also still very popular. The sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and (in Tampa ONLY) Genoa salami on Cuban bread.
It is believed by some that the sandwich was a common lunch food for workers in both the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba (especially in big cities such as Havana or Santiago de Cuba) and the cigar factories of Key West by the 1860s.
The cigar industry in Florida shifted to Tampa in the 1880s and the sandwich quickly appeared in workers’ cafés in Ybor City and (later) West Tampa, leading historians to theorize that the sandwich as now constituted first appeared there.
By the 1960s, Cuban sandwiches were also common on Miami cafeteria and restaurant menus, as the city had gained a large influx of Cuban residents after Fidel Castro’s 1959 rise to power in their native land.
The rivalry between Tampa and Miami over the Cubano is legendary, and TFD stands firmly with the Citizens of Tampa on this one!
In April 2012, the “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich” was designated as the “signature sandwich of the city of Tampa” by Tampa’s city council. The gauntlet was thrown down to Miami publicly and in an NPR story about the conflict, a Tampa resident noted:
“…But in Tampa, Cubans quickly mixed with others – like Italians. Their Genoa salami is an ingredient that’s missing in the Miami version of the sandwich. Miami’s mayor might say, oddly, that salami belongs on pizza – but its salty greasiness is the perfect foil for mustard, pickle and Swiss cheese.
Tampa’s Cubans married those Italians, Spaniards and others and formed a pan-Latin community – and a pan-Latin sandwich.”
TFD believes that mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato are abominations on a Tampa Cubano and hopes to impress this canon amongst the loyal Citizens of TFD nation!
Since the Cuban bread is nearly impossible to find outside of Florida and Cuban communities, I’ve taken the liberty of cribbing a recipe for it from the fine folks at King Arthur Flour!
This is the Mojo marinade for the Roast Pork from the John Favreau movie “Chef”. The recipe was created by rock star LA chef Roy Choi and works very well indeed in my version of the sandwich classic!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
4 tablespoons butter or 3 tablespoons fresh lard, cut into small pieces
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
Cuban Roast Pork:
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cilantro (lightly packed)
1 tbsp orange zest
¾ cup orange juice (fresh)
½ cup lime juice
¼ cup mint leaves (lightly packed)
8 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves (packed)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 lb / 2 kg boneless pork shoulder
For The Cuban Sandwich:
8″ piece of homemade Cuban bread (strongly preferred, recipe follows) or focaccia
4 ounces Virginia-style smoked ham, thinly-sliced
2 ounces pulled Cuban roast pork
1 ounce top-quality Peppercorn-studded Genoa salami, thinly-sliced
1 ounce Swiss cheese, thinly-sliced, Boar’s Head Gold Label Switzerland Swiss Cheese preferred
1 medium dill pickle, cut into thirds lengthwise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
To make the Cuban Bread:
To make the rolls: Mix, then knead together all of the dough ingredients — by hand, or using a stand mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a smooth, supple dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise until it’s puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk — about 1 hour, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
Gently fold the dough in upon itself and turn it upside-down after 30 minutes; this “turn” helps eliminate some of the excess carbon dioxide and redistributes the yeast’s food, both imperative for optimum yeast growth.
Deflate the dough, and divide it into six pieces. Shape each piece into a rough log. Let the logs rest for 15 minutes, covered, then shape each piece into a smooth roll about 8″ long, slightly tapered at each end. Place the rolls on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet.
Let the rolls rise, covered, for 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Brush or spray the rolls with water, and slash one long lengthwise slit down the middle of each. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove the rolls from the oven, and cool on a rack. The rolls may be made one day in advance and stored at room temperature, or several weeks in advance and frozen.
To make the Cuban Roast Pork:
With a sharp knife, puncture pork in several places. Place in a shallow roasting pan.
Combine marinade ingredients (use ½ the combined lime and orange juice) in a food processor and blend until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped.
Rub paste all over pork, pushing mixture into punctured holes. Place pork in a large ziplock bag. Add bay leaves to the rest of the sour orange juice and pour over pork. Place in the fridge overnight (in a bowl, just to be safe).
Remove the pork from the Marinade and bring to room temperature. Reserve the Marinade.
Preheat oven to 170C/325F.
Place the pork on a rack in a roasting dish (or on a couple of onions have, to elevate the pork). Cover with a lid or double layer or foil, slightly tented so it is not pressed tightly against the pork.
Place in the oven and bake for 2 hrs 30 minutes.
Then remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes to brown.
Remove from the oven and place on a plate, loosely covered with foil. Rest for 20 minutes before pulling for Tampa-style Cuban Sandwiches or slicing.
To Make the Cuban Sandwich:
Cut Cuban bread or baguette in half lengthwise.
Layer sliced meats and cheese in the following order: ham, pork, salami and then cheese. Place pickle chips evenly on top.
Spread mustard on top half of bread. Lightly butter both top and bottom of sandwich. Heat sandwich in press until crisp. Cut diagonally from corner to corner and enjoy!