Pressing the Issue: “Too few people understand a really good sandwich.” –James Beard
I hate disappointment. I suppose we all do, but I don’t handle it very well, I’m afraid. So when this new restaurant opened not too far from where we live, I got excited. Yay! I thought. Finally, a decent place for date night! A nice little café with outdoor seating. A joint that everyone had been buzzing about, scrambling for reservations and singing the praises of a former country club chef of local fame now doing his own thing a few miles down the road. I felt like a secret agent/food critic (guess I’ve been watching too many episodes of 24 that we have on disc) when I casually stopped in and asked to peek at their menu. It looked promising – the place was packed and clamored with the sounds of a busy, successful eatery. The food was interesting without being overly-pretentious and the entrées were reasonably priced, so I decided to give them a test run with a noonday bite. Remember a little while back, I had a
nuclear meltdown jolly good rant about wait staff pet peeves? Well, my server in this Lunchtime Lotto could have been its Poster Child. I’m not kidding.
Disclaimer: Please remember, I, too, was a card-carrying member of the hospitality industry for many, many years and considered myself a damn good waitress – I mean server, so please no hate e-mails about you hard-working, tray-toting folks, okay? Because I know what you go through. Gladiators, I salute you!
The hostess ushered me through the bar/lounge area and landed on a small two-top by the window. It was exactly three seconds before “she” showed up. “She” being the teenaged gal who bounced – and I am not exaggerating here – she quite literally boinged, boinged, boinged across the room with her orange scrunchied ponytail swinging wildly – over to my table to take my order. Besides committing my cardinal cringe-inducing sin of “Hi! My name is Tigger and I’ll be taking care of you today!” (in a really irritating Valley girl cadence), she had the audacity to rub my shoulder while she introduced herself. But wait! I’m not talking about a light tap or even a friendly pat, which would have been okay, easily overlooked and really not a problem if it were a “touch and go” scenario, but this chick went all in with a full-on genie lamp polishing kind of rub, which totally crossed the line (I’m sorry, Aladdin? Do I know you?) Then the 12-year-old, with her hand still on me, said as she cocked her head to the side with an exaggerated pout, “You doin’ okay here, sweetie.”
Not even a question. And do I detect dripping pity in her tone because I’m eating alone? Once I ordered, she followed that with, “The sandwich’s all you want, honey?”
Uh, yeah…honey. I’m sorry, but the whole personal space invasion from a complete and total stranger (and this, coming from someone who considers herself to be extremely touchy-feely!) coupled with these kinds of terms of endearment should be saved for people you actually know. Like intimately. God, I sound like a snotty prude but am I wrong?
And then…THEN…the final lethal blow that came only two minutes after dropping off my lunch: “You still working on that sandwich, sugar?”
You just brought it to me! I’m like three bites in, so I’m gonna go with “No.”
Sheesh. I’m telling you, I could not get out of there fast enough. And, hoo boy, was I disappointed that yet another eating establishment was about to be on the Blacklist. But then, I thought, Don’t be such a snob, Cheryl. Give them another shot – one very unprofessional server does not a restaurant make. Even though the inner ornery questioner pondered that a manager had interviewed her and hired her. On purpose.
Adam and I decided to give them another chance. Several, in fact. We subsequently endured several more bad meals before they finally delivered that previously elusive good food/good service combo. But what kept me coming back…with fingers tightly crossed…what kept me really, really wanting to like them, really, really willing to like them, was the chef’s very clever takes on classic fare, especially his southern barbecue pulled pork panini. The sandwich itself was pretty good (I’d give it a B) but what really stuck in my head was the use of pulled pork in a pressed sandwich. And that was brilliant. So, I decided to give one of my favorite roasted pork-based sandwiches the same treatment: The Cubano.
The traditional Cuban sandwich is made with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and roasted pork but my version uses leftovers from my slow cooker pulled pork recipe ( see below).
Leftovers, you say? Yes, leftovers. I make the slow cooker pulled pork just so I can make these sandwiches the next day. So, you, too should make the slow cooker recipe and save some pulled pork for later – because it’s a snap to grill up these delightful pork-laden sandwiches and they’re perfect when you want something fabulous in a hurry. Especially if you’re, uh, pressed for time.
I can’t believe I went there, either.
This is not for the faint of pork. There’s pulled pork. There’s ham in there. And there’s bacon. It’s a Porkapoolooza, baby!
Pulled Pork Cuban Sandwiches with Bacon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- one loaf Cuban bread or 4 hoagie rolls
- yellow or Dijon mustard
- mayonnaise, optional
- 8 ounces thinly sliced cooked ham
- 8 pieces cooked bacon
- 8 ounces pulled pork (see link below) or roasted pork
- 8 ounces Swiss cheese
- 12 thin dill pickle slices
- Heat a panini press or sandwich maker. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter with the olive oil.
- Cut the loaf of bread into quarters and slice each quarter in half lengthwise, leaving one edge in tact. Lay the bread open like a book. Flip the bread over and using a pastry brush, coat each side of the bread with some of the butter/olive oil mixture.
- Flip the bread over again and generously spread the insides with mustard and some mayonnaise, if using. Divide the ingredients evenly among the slices of bread and build your sandwiches in this order: ham, bacon, pork, cheese and pickles.
- Bring the tops and bottoms together and press slightly to compact.
- Place a sandwich on the press and lower the lid, pressing down. Cook each sandwich until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Allow the sandwich to cool for 2 minutes before slicing in half to serve.
Planning: If you don’t have a panini press, you can use either a grill pan or a frying pan; use a clean, heavy skillet or aluminum-foil wrapped brick to weigh down the sandwiches to flatten them.
Product Purity: Most of the bottled thinly sliced pickles you see at the grocery store are made with high fructose corn syrup. I buy Boar’s Head pickles and thinly slice them with a sharp knife.
Presentation: I like these sandwiches both right off the presses and at room temperature (and they also reheat beautifully in a 250 degree oven for a few minutes wrapped in foil). For the latter, you can make them picnic-friendly by wrapping individual halves in wax or parchment paper tied with some butcher’s twine. Either way, serve them with some potato chips and a Cuba Libre!