Tired of plain old ham and cheese on wheat bread? How about a Cuban or a bahn mi?
Americans have had a love affair with sandwiches for centuries. We put any savory ingredients between slices of bread — deli meats, cheeses, cooked meats like chicken or roast beef. We enhance these ingredients with serendipitous spreads like mayo, mustard, relish, horseradish, ketchup, reaching beyond to peanut butter, jelly and marshmallow.
In the past few years, we’ve been reaching beyond our own shores to embrace sandwiches from other cultures. In some cases, the name “sandwich” might be disputed, as when the ingredients are wrapped in soft tortillas or stuffed into crunchy tacos. Others are entirely unexpected, using newly discovered ingredients with familiar breads.
Recently the Vietnamese bahn mi and the Cuban Havana have gone mainstream. The Vietnamese sandwich shows off both its French and Vietnamese heritage, combining French bread and mayonnaise ground pork flavored with Asian fish sauce, sriarcha, and daikon radish relish.
The Havana, or the Cuban, starts with a pork tenderloin roasted in garlic and orange juice, lining a loaf of Cuban bread, much like more easily found cibatta, with cold cuts. All enhanced with flavors of the ball park, yellow mustard and pickles, then pressed into a meltingly delicious whole.
Rather than seeking out a shop that specializes in either sandwich, try making them at home. With the right ingredients, it’s amazing how authentic a homemade version tastes. Make your own Asian slaw of carrots, cucumbers, and daikon radishes; or roast pork in a garlicky orange juice sauce. Prepared in large batches, and paired with your grandma’s potato salad recipe, you get a feast to enjoy on the porch or at the backyard picnic table.
For authentic flavors, find the rice wine vinegar, sriracha and fish sauces in the international food section of major supermarkets in the international foods section; as for the daikon in the produce section as it may not be easily recognizable. For a large batch of Cuban sandwiches, wrap each one in foil; place them all on a baking sheet with a second baking sheet on top weighted down with foil-wrapped bricks.
A short stay in the oven, and they’re done.
NOT TOTALLY AUTENTIC BAHN MI SANDWICH
Makes 6 servings
3/4 cup shredded carrots
2 cucumbers, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded daikon radish
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon each ground black pepper and salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 lime, juice and grated zest
6 small French breads
1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
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1. Toss together the carrots, cucumbers, daikon, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl to make the slaw. Allow to marinate, 30 to 60 minutes.
2. Whisk together mayonnaise, 1 scallion and the sriracha sauce; cover, and set aside.
3. Warm the oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add remaining 2 scallions and garlic. Cook, stirring until garlic is fragrant, less than a minute. Add pork and cook, keeping the meat from clumping with fork, about 7 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce, all the fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar. Take the pan off the heat; stir in basil, lime juice and grated zest. Set aside to cool 10 minutes. Stir in the mayonnaise mixture.
4. Fill bread with pork mixture. Toss the jalapeno, mint and cilantro with pork. Spoon pickled vegetables on top to serve.
CUBAN OR HAVANA SANDWICH
Makes 4 servings
Some sandwiches-makers like to add salami to the deli selections as well.
1 loaf Cuban bread, ciabatta, large Italian loaf, or rolls about 7 inches in length
4 dill pickles, cut in 3-4 lengthwise slices
5 slices boiled or baked ham, thinly sliced
4 slices Cuban roast pork, sliced
4 slices Swiss or American cheese, thinly sliced
French’s yellow mustard
1. Slice bread open like a book. Spread mustard on bottom slice. Place 4 pickles on top of the mustard; place cheese on top of pickles. Place ham slices over pickles. Place slices of roast pork on top of ham. Spread mayonnaise evenly over top slice. Join both halves of the sandwich, pressing down.
2. Grill the sandwich, in a panini press waffle iron or in a skillet, pressing the sandwich down until top turns golden and cheese melts, 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Remove sandwich from the oven or the sandwich press; slice diagonally from corner to corner to serve.
The sauce used for roasting the pork is called a mojo.
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2-1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
10 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound boneless pork loin
1. Stir together all ingredients except the pork to make the mojo. Keep stirring until salt dissolves. Cover; refrigerate, (1 to 24 hours).
2. Trim fat from pork. Place pork and mojo in sealable plastic bag. Seal; refrigerate to marinate, 3 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the pork; discard the marinade. Pat dry with paper towels.
4. Roast the pork in oven, 30 to 40 minutes, until meat thermometer registers 160 degrees. Transfer to a cutting board; let stand 10 minutes. Cut into thin slices.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Follow Linda on Twitter at @KitchenCall.
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