The Cuban sandwich is a testament to culinary integration, patience and abiding love. It’s quintessential element is the coalescing of big personality ingredients into one delicious mambo in your mouth.
The exact birth date of the Cuban sandwich is impossible to pin down. Stories date as far back as the mid to late 1800’s, in the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba where workers would partake during their breaks. It arrived on our shores during the Cuban revolution. A Cuban population that was able to get out from under Fidel’s ruthless thumb found work in the fields of the Sunshine State and a lunchtime favorite was born.
The original Cuban sammy was made with roasted pork, ham, salami, swiss cheese and pickles on Cuban bread. Upon its arrival in Miami, the salami was removed but the history was just beginning. The present day blueprint calls for pork, ham, swiss and pickles on Cuban bread (think Italian or French bread . . with a Spanish accent).
From there to here, this simple sandwich has undergone more reconstructions than Uma Thurman’s beautiful face. The marielitos who fled Havana in 1980 brought fusion, while America’s sandwich scientists brought sacrilege. The myriad takes on the original have ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.
A couple months back, me and Linds decided to put together an Adventure Playlist: Pick a food and then search for its best example. We decided to start things off with the Cuban sandwich.
Our search for the “perfect Cuban sandwich” comes with myriad considerations and assorted complications. Namely, we live in fucking Lancaster County, Pennsylvania! That aside, we have been quite successful in our scavenger hunt thus far, uncovering hidden gems with ups, hipster cafes with crazy combinations and corner bars whose soulful renditions brought us to tears (okay, maybe it was the drinks that did that). They’ve all had one thing in common. They were goooood.
Mi Caldero Restaurante in York, Pennsylvania became our first stop. We came up with this location by conducting a google search as follows . . Places in York, Pa where you’re unlikely to be mugged . . . Thank God for technology, yanno?
One bite told the tale. The pork was succulent . . (that’s a big deal). Unfortunately for this particular sandwich, the pork was too good. It actually stole the show. It was the culinary equivalent of Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. Delicious and sexy and infinitely better than the rest of an otherwise solid cast. The sandwich paid close attention to detail: Its mustard/mayo’ish creaminess was a yummy salve, the pickles provided punch with every crunch and the ham was buttery and sweet. AND . . it was pressed with the abiding love of a chef who totally gets that the press is the thing.
On a scale of 1-10, we graded Mi Caldero’s Cuban sandwich a 6. Perhaps we were a bit harsh, but hey, this is important work!
This is the first of a series of posts on the Cuban sandwich. We’ll report from the front lines about once a week until we find our winner. In the interim, if you have a take on the Cuban sandwich that you would like to share with us, please do! You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can just leave your recipe in the comment tab. Who knows? We might even try yours out.
Viva the flavah . . .