Hey, it’s election time. Let’s get political. Let’s talk Cuba.
There Cuba sits, all surrounded by pretty water, all full of tasty food (and human rights violations), but we can’t partake unless we’re totally ok with losing a limb to a hungry shark or becoming a political prisoner.
Luckily, I’m here to save the day. Not with diplomacy or a shark-proof wetsuit, but with a really, really tasty rendition of a Medianoche sandwich that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home, in your sweatpants, enjoying uncensored political debates (as well as the creepy smirks and expressions made by the listening candidate).
Cuba/Cuban immigrants have actually developed two wonderful sandwiches: the Cubano and the Medianoche. They are identical except for the bread. Cuban sandwiches are made with Cuban bread, which is a baguette- or roll-shaped bread with a crispy exterior and a light, airy interior. Medianoche sandwiches are made with a rich, sweet, eggy bread, like challah. ‘Medianoche’ means ‘midnight,’ which is the favorite time to consume this sandwich after hitting da clubs in Havana. It makes sense… after I hit da clubs, I like rich, sweet, eggies and bacon. And rich, sweet, eggy ibuprofen.
I make my Medianoches on King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls because I first started making these when we lived in Hawaii, but you could also make them on brioche. I really want to try making them with homemade challah (which means I need to conquer my intimidation with braided breads. Oy, vey.).
I always use leftover roasted/grilled pork, and I’m not going to lie… I have made pork for the sole purpose of having leftovers for these sandwiches. Kind of like roasting a 22-lb turkey for two people JUST for the week’s worth of Thanksgiving sandwiches the next week. There’s no shame in it. It’s genius.
The rest of the ingredients are standard issue: sliced ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard. What’s not standard? The mojo sauce. Mojo makes it special. Mojo makes you do a little salsa while these sizzle on the panini press. This mojo is a garlic-lime-cilantro mixture you brush on the inside of the rolls, and it’s what bolsters these babies to superstar sandwich status. I’m not even sure Abuela Castro could do better.
Because every sandwich is better when slathered with butter and smashed by a panini press, these are slathered with butter and smashed by a panini press. What you get is crispy, cheesy, meaty, authentic Cuban goodness… all while enjoying mud-slinging political ads and good old ‘Murican capitalism. Now GO VOTE!
- 1 clove of garlic
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 T fresh lime juice
- 1 T chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 large Hawaiian/Portuguese sweet rolls or 8 thick slices challah/brioche
- 3 T whole grain mustard
- 6 oz thinly sliced roasted or grilled pork loin/tenderloin
- ¼ lb thinly sliced ham
- 4 thick slices Swiss cheese
- 2 large dill pickles, thinly sliced
- 2 T unsalted butter, softened (I use spreadable butter)
- Make the mojo: Peel and mince the garlic, then sprinkle it with salt and continue to mince the salt into the garlic (this helps to cut the pungency of the raw garlic). Transfer to a small bowl and mix in the olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro. Let it sit while you prepare the sandwiches.
- Make the sandwiches: Heat a panini press or heavy duty skillet over medium heat. Brush the interior of the rolls/bread with the mojo and mustard, then stack the bottom of each roll/piece of bread with equal amounts of the pork, ham, cheese, and pickles. Top each sandwich with the top piece of roll/bread, and spread butter on the top and bottom of each sandwich. Cook sandwiches in the panini press, or if using a pan, place a heavy pan on top of the sandwich while each side cooks in order to achieve the 'pressed' effect. Cut each sandwich in half and serve.