We were always sports fanatics. I grew up watching everything and anything sports-related. Naturally, watching led to participating.
My mami, all 5 foot one inches of her, had played tennis and basketball (!!) in Cuba. Mami is the one wearing those mod sixties sunglasses in the picture.
Papi played volleyball on a club team in Cuba that was exceptionally good. Papi is the tall slender one at the right in the photo.
My brother was a great football player. He’s the one hamming it up at the top of the bench.
My sister, Carmen, and I played everything in high school — field hockey (soccer was not a “sport” back then), volleyball, some basketball (I’m vertically challenged), volleyball and softball. Carmen is standing next to my mom and I’m standing next to my dad. Accurate since my sis is a twin to my mom, while I took after my dad — except height-wise. My sis and her family ended up with all the height.
Anyway, being sports fanatics and becoming totally emerged in American culture, one of the biggest sports events was the Super Bowl. Being Cuban, that also meant a ton of food would be available for friends and family who were coming to watch the game.
Here’s one of our favorites for you to try out for your Super Bowl spread!
Cuban Sandwiches and Medianoches
You see Cuban sandwiches appearing more and more everyday, especially with the panini craze that’s happening in a lot of places, basically because a Cuban sandwich is very similar to a panini in how it’s made.
What’s the difference between a Cuban sandwich and a Medianoche? A Medianoche is made with a light egg bread/roll rather than Cuban bread. The medianoche or “midnight” sandwich, was named that because the lighter version of the sandwich became popular as a midnight after-Club snack in the 1940s and 50s.
Cuban bread is rather unique — light and airy since it’s made with lard, but it does have a “crust” of sorts. If you’re going to try making a Cuban sandwich, you’re better off with an inexpensive store Italian bread with a lighter crust rather than a good bread with a nice hard crust. Why? Like a panini, you grill and flatten a Cuban sandwich, so a light crust is better since it allows for a flatter sandwich.
In Cuba (and Miami), getting a Cuban sandwich for lunch or as a snack was kind of like going to McDonalds. You could get one anywhere. When I’d go to South Beach, I’d head to David’s Cafeteria on the corner of 11th and Collins for a sandwich sometimes. I hit David’s every morning though for a few Cuban coffees — cafe con leche!
What you’ll need to make a Cuban Sandwich:
Somewhere to grill the sandwich — George Foreman grill, panini maker, sandwich press (plancha) or what I do — flat baking tray with a larger cast iron griddle.
Cuban Bread or Italian Bread with light crust or egg bread roll
roast pork (follow my family recipe on the Cook’s Treat page or check your local deli counter)
Virginia ham/Honey ham
(Please note that the traditional recipe calls for you to also put mustard and pickles on the sandwich. YUK!)
So here goes on the assembly:
Slice the bread lengthwise.
Layer a few slices each of ham, pork and swiss cheese on the bread.
Butter the outside of the bread.
Place the bread on the ungreased baking tray. Place a layer of foil above the sandwiches and then place the heavy griddle above (or heavy cast iron pans/sandwich press).
If you are using a panini maker or George Foreman grill, just put the sandwich right on them.
Bake/Grill the sandwich (at about 375 degrees), pressing down on the top griddle/press occassionally in order to flatter the sandwich. In the oven, it takes about twenty minutes or so to get a nice toast on the bread, melt the cheese and reheat the ham and pork.
Cut into hero-size lengths — about six inches. Cut on a diagonal (the traditional way the Cuban Sandwich is served).
If you’re not a pork lover, you can substitute a good roast turkey for the pork and the sandwich will still be as tasty!
Have fun watching the game and hopefully having a Cuban sandwich!