They say you can't get an authentic Cubano sandwich outside Miami and I tend to believe it. Ingredients can be extremely local. I can't image a true lobster roll, for instance, without a top-cut bun, and top-cut buns aren't available outside certain areas of New England.
Still, we continuously try to duplicate the flavors, the smells, the textures we love--or at least imagine we are doing so. I say, if you love a good Cubano sandwich and the only thing standing in your way is an authentic Cuban roll, close your eyes and wrap your gums around the best roll you can find.
A Cubano is an odd combination. You would never think of a Cuban slapping together a soft roll, yellow mustard, roast pork, dill pickles, ham and Swiss cheese and calling it a taste of the home country. The truth is, the Cubano is 100 percent American, a product of South Florida. What makes it really local is the Cuban bread it is made on, which traditionally contains lard (so they say). After that, what separates the Cubano from the ordinary submarine sandwich is the fact that is pressed--hard and long--in a plancha, or sandwich press, that melts the cheese with the meat and pickles.
If you don't have any Cuban bread on hand, find yourself a soft submarine-type roll. Cut the roll in half lengthwise. Smear one of the inside halves with mustard (yellow or Dijon) and cover the other half with slices of Swiss cheese. Over the mustard lay slices of a full-flavored, deli-style ham, such as Black Forest ham. Over the cheese lay a mound of pulled pork, or slices of roast pork. (We used slices of loin I had spit roasted with some hickory chips last Thursday--the flavor was intense).
Fold the sandwich together. Butter the outside of the roll. Press it hard and for a good long while in your sandwich press until the roll is lightly browned and the cheese is oozing.
What's that? You say you don't have a sandwich press? Well, maybe you do and you just don't know it. Place a large, heavy skillet over moderately low heat. When it comes up to temperature, lay your sandwiches in there. Now take a second, smaller heavy skillet. Lay it on top of the sandwiches and fill it up with canned goods, as many as you can fit. Press down on the sandwiches and let them cook. That is your sandwich press.
Listen for cheese sizzling in the skillet. That is your cue to remove the flattened sandwiches, slice them in two and serve with some tangy cole slaw and a cold beer.
It will make you want to shout, Viva el Cubano!
Bottom photo--pickles on the side--by daughter