From the award winning… “The Exciting Story of Cuba”
Unknown to most, is that the real Cuban sandwich had its origin in Tampa, Florida. Of course, the boiled ham sandwiches found in Havana were the basic inspiration for the Cuban sandwich; however, they did not come into their own until the concept arrived in Tampa, Florida. It is somewhat similar to a ham and cheese sandwich, but with some remarkable twists, that makes it special.
Long before the Cuban Revolution, immigrants from the island nation came to the United States and worked in various professions, but most frequently as cigar makers in Tampa’s Ybor City, known for the manufacturing of premium cigars. These skilled craftsmen also worked in Key West, where hand rolled cigars were lovingly made for a selective market of discerning American aficionados.
The cafes catering primarily to these workers created these delicious sandwiches and they soon became a favorite luncheon meal that could be obtained in all of the immigrant Cuban communities. In more recent times, Cuban refugees and exiles took the concept of this sandwich to Miami, where it is very popular with tourists and the large Cuban population alike.
Of course, anything as tasty as a Cuban sandwich, much the same as Italian Pizza or Chinese Chop Suey, soon spreads into the general population. One of the better Cuban sandwiches made in the Tampa Bay area is on the menu at Central Park Family Restaurant on State Route 54, in New Port Richey, Florida. It is owned by a Greek-American family, and is run by their son Chris Michael. The restaurant also features a dish not to be missed, called “A Taste of Cuba.”
In April of 2012, the Cuban sandwich was chosen by Tampa’s City Council as the official sandwich of the City of Tampa.
Although there are many subtle variations to the Cuban sandwich, this should work well as a delightful “imbiss” or “tomar un tentempié” as you read this book.
Basically, the sandwich is made with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami, on Cuban bread.
Your ingredients should include:
- A 7-inch loaf of Cuban bread. If this is not available, Italian or French bread can be substituted. In fact, you could even use a hoagie roll.
- 1/2 pound of cooked Deli, Virginia or Boiled Ham.
- Several slices of Salami, Sausage and / or Mortadella.
- ¼ pound of sliced, thinly hand cut roast pork, for a country-style, homemade flavor.
- Several slices of Swiss cheese. Provolone cheese may also be used.
- Dill pickles, tomatoes and lettuce.
- 1 tbsp. of butter, mayonnaise and yellow mustard for moisture and taste.
- Dried plantain chips or potato chips.
- Cutting lengthwise, slice the bread deep enough so that you can open it.
- Evenly spread the bread with the butter, mayonnaise and yellow mustard.
- Starting with the ham, layer in the ingredients, finishing up with the cheese and pickles. You may be tempted to add sliced tomatoes and onions and perhaps even some sliced olives, but then you will have a different kind of delicious sandwich. However, it will not be a “Cuban!”
- Cut several slices of dill pickles into flat rings, and then cut the rest lengthwise into spears. Place the cut rings on the top of the layered ingredients of the sandwich.
- Now, for one of the twists mentioned before, close the sandwich and butter the crust before grilling it in a hot press or a pan. It should take about 5 minutes to get it toasty brown and crispy. Be Careful! The cheese should have melted and the sandwich should be hot to the touch.
- Placing the prepared “Cuban” on a cutting board, slice it lengthwise, at a long, oblique angle, with a sharp bread knife.
- Arrange tomato wedges and dill spears on lettuce leaves, along with plantain chips, placed on the side of the “Cuban” as a delightful complement to the sandwich.
- Beware! These sandwiches may be habit forming and are definitely dangerous to your waistline.
“Suppressed I Rise” will be available at Amazon.com and other book vendors on February 15, 2017.