Cubanos 1

muttonbreath is going to be here any minute to remind me that Che ain’t cool, but hear me out:  A Chicago Irish girl takes the humble Cubano on a whirlwhind tour of Europe in an homage to the emerging global economy… and knocks out some pesky leftovers besides.  Revolutionary indeed!

Chi-rish Cubanos

Assemble your ingredients – most importantly, your leftover Pork Tenderloin with Mojo.  …Wait, what?  You don’t have any leftover Pork Tenderloin with Mojo?  Well, go make some right now!

Cubanos 2

As this is a sandwich, you’ll want to slice the pork tenderloin as thinly as possible.  This is always easier when the meat is right out of the fridge – it cuts much more cleanly when it’s cold.

Cubanos 3

Got your passport?  Because we are now departing Cuba.  Authentic Cubanos are made with Cuban bread, but the best-looking contender my grocery store had to offer were some Portugese sandwich rolls.  Slice one in half.

Cubanos 4

Now you’re ready to begin assembling the sandwich.  Before you begin, however, you should crank up the flame under two (count ’em) skillets on your stove.  One, if at all possible, should be cast-iron.  Why, you ask?  Patience, Grasshopper.

Cubanos 5

Now, pack your bags again, because we’re headed to France.  A true Cubano would be made with regular yellow mustard, but all I had in my fridge was Dijon.  But, hey… I like white wine (I’d certainly drink it with the sandwich), and garlic makes everything better, so why not?  Spread a coat on both halves.

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Take your pork tenderloin slices, dredge them through the leftover mojo sauce (do not skip this step; it gives the sandwich a much-needed sweet/fruity note), and layer them on the sanny.

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Probably the best thing about a Cubano is that it unabashedly contains more than one kind of pork.  The first time I tried one, I felt like Homer Simpson upon learning that bacon, ham, and pork chops all come from the same animal: “Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa.  A wonderful, magical animal.”

Magical animal or no, though, I’m not really a ham fan.  Something about the whole meat = sweet thing, and the way it’s sometimes kind of watery and grainy, and… eccch.  No.  I can, however, tolerate capicola (or, if you’re Tony Soprano, gabbagool) on a sub, so buckle up, kids – we’re off to Italy.  Layer it on the sandwich and try not to pass out from a panic attack.

Cubanos 8

Next up on a typical Cubano would be pickles, and I do love their vinegary punch.  I also like things spicy, though, so we’ll be going with a peck of pickled peppers instead.

Cubanos 9

And finally, for the sake of neutrality, some Swiss cheese.  This is traditional.  Anyone else jet lagged?  Man, I hate it when I’m all thinking it’s wake-up time and it’s really poobley o’clock in the evening.

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I had planned to brush the top and bottom of the sandwich with olive oil before toasting, but I couldn’t find my pastry brush, so I squirted it with nonstick baking spray instead.  You’ll definitely want some kind of fat to help it toast up properly.

Cubanos 11

Now, I know I’ve taken some liberties with the Cubano here, but on one point I refuse to compromise: to be a true Cubano, it has to be pressed.  Oh, sure, you could use a sandwich press, but I’m right there with St. Alton of Brown on the presence of unitaskers in my kitchen: I’ve only got room for the fire extinguisher, baby.

Ergo, remember those two skillets?

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You will actually want oven mitts on both hands, because you really need to throw your whole weight into the pressing to make it effective.  I had good luck with making a fist of my other (oven mitt-clad!) hand and pushing down hard on the center of the pan.  If you hear cheese oozing out the sides and melting, you’re doing it right.

After just a few minutes, it should look like this:

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Slice and eat, or, for true authenticity, wrap it up in foil and take it with you for lunch while you pull an all-day shift at the cigar factory.  This is the Obama era, folks – Fidel’s hanging on by a thread and the borders are opening.  Who says you can’t have a traditional Cuban treat by way of most of Europe, all in a Chicago fridge?

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