Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday – Week Twenty Seven – Florida – The Cuban Sandwich

Welcome to week 27 of Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday. This week we focus on Florida, who joined the union on March 3, 1845.  I was actually surprised when Florida came up as #27, as the whole rest of the East Coast had joined our happy family so long ago. And what I learned was that the Spanish had actually controlled and held on to this piece of land until 1845. It was a Spanish colony, and Florida had a much larger panhandle earlier on, when its borders reached from the mouth of the Savannah River to the Mississippi. Most of that land was acquired through numerous skirmishes with the US, and the Spaniards finally decided that they were literally fighting a losing battle and simply walked away from the colony, leaving it to the US.

Even after becoming a state, most people lived in the northern panhandle region, leaving the mid section for Native Americans, escaped slaves and some brave ranchers.  It was not until the later 1900s that the far south developed and became a preferred migration spot for Northerners looking for better weather. It is often said that everyone who lives in Florida is from somewhere else; that very few people are actually born there. For this reason, Florida is one of our most culturally diverse states.

For my new recipe, I decided to take a look at the huge influence that Cuba has had on southern Florida. I settled on a dish that is known almost everywhere, but I had never made it myself. It is known as the Cuban Sandwich.  The history of this sandwich seems to originate in Florida around Key West in the 1860s and then Tampa in the 1880s, following the flow of traffic with the cigar industry. It is believed that the sandwich was popular with factory workers and eventually flowed out into the community at large. With the large influx of Cuban immigrants in the 1960s, the sandwich quickly gained notoriety in Miami and continues to be on most lunch menus there today.

Cuban Sandwich
The Cuban Sandwich

The sandwich itself is pretty straightforward and hasn’t changed much since its arrival. The key is making the roast pork, as the rest of the ingredients are deli foods. The recipe I used to make the pork was from Food Network, as I liked the marinade ingredients and it was easy to make in my slow cooker.

I really liked the way the pork came out, probably because of the citrus and salt that flavored the meat nicely. Cooking it all day made it fall off the bone and I found myself picking at the meat as I was making the sandwich.

The sandwich itself was ok. I found that the dill pickle became the dominant flavor, which I didn’t care for and ended up pulling them out. Some recipes I had seen called for Bread and Butter pickles, and I think I would have liked their subtle taste better.

Overall, I give the classic Cuban Sandwich a B, but I give the pork a solid A. I will be picking at those left overs for several days and loving it all.

Thanks all. Enjoy and see you next week in… Texas. (yikes)

Recipe for Slow Cooked Cuban Pork Sandwich (from FoodNetwork.com):

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime (2 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 orange (2 tablespoons)
3 to 3 1/2-pound boneless or bone in pork shoulder
Six 6-inch sub rolls
Yellow mustard
1 pound Swiss, thick-sliced
1 pound honey ham, thinly sliced
2 cups dill pickle chips

Directions:

Mix the oil, salt, cumin, oregano, black pepper, red pepper, garlic, lime juice and orange juice in a small bowl. Make slits in the pork with a paring knife and rub liberally all over with the oil mixture. Place the pork in a slow cooker and top with the remaining juices from the bowl. Cover and cook on low until tender, flipping once halfway through, about 6-8 hours.

Cuban Pork
Slowed cooked Cuban Pork

Remove from the slow cooker and let cool slightly. Shred the pork into thick chunks with 2 forks. Set the pork aside and keep warm in the cooking liquid.

Slice the rolls open and smear both sides with mustard. Layer on the Swiss, ham, pulled pork and pickles.

Preheat a Panini press (I used my George Forman grill). Place one sandwich at a time in the press and heat until the bread is browned and the cheese has melted, about 5-7 minutes. Remove to a plate and serve hot. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.

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