sandwich cubano + maduros
I cobbled together this recipe when I moved from Austin to Houston and needed a substitute for the Sandwich Cubano at La Habana, one of my favorite Austin restaurants. I got the marinade recipe from BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen, my favorite chef and one the greatest grill masters around. Maduros are fried slices of plantain bananas. Plantains can be tedious to ripen and frying can be an inconvenience or hazard. I still have a scare on my arm from when I was frying buffalo chicken hearts back in June. But if you want to go all-out there is a great recipe for grilled maduros in the aforementioned book. My cheaters version for the popular Caribbean and South American side dish follows.
For the sandwiches
1 5 lb pork loin
12 slices of deli ham (any brand will do)
3 loaves French bread
1 jar pickle slices
6 slices of Swiss cheese
Mustard to taste
For the marinade
1 head of garlic
1 tbp coarse salt (I use sea)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups lime juice
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbp olive oil
You will also need
-A charcoal grill set up for indirect grilling. This means coals on two sides with the meat on the grate in between them. You should also fashion a drip pan to catch the fan and other juices that fall from the pork as it cooks. You won’t reuse it but it helps for a cleaner grill.
-A Foreman grill or a panini press.
-A carving knife
-A mixing bowl
-A Pyrex or similar marinating dish large enough to accommodate the pork loin.
-Saran wrap or similar product
-A large pan
Four hours for marinating, three hours for cooking the pork. FYI, you should start the coals 30 minutes before you put the pork on so they’re good n’ glowing.
Prepare the marinade. Break off and shuck all the cloves and finely chop, then place in a mixing bowl. Using a mortar and pestle (a mixing bowl and the back of a spoon is a good substitute) grind the garlic and the sea salt into a paste. Add the pepper, orange and lime juice, cumin, oregano and olive oil and stir together. It should look like salad dressing.
Prepare the pork loin. Most people get their pork loin in a package from a grocer. If it smells kind of funky when you open the package, don’t worry about it. This is normal and has no effect on the taste. I promise! Rinse the pork off and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the pork in the marinating dish, fat side up. (Most pork loins come with a thin layer of fat on them) Make several half-inch deep incisions with a knife into the fatty side of the loin. Pour the marinade over the pork, massaging the marinade into the slits with your hands. It helps to get a spoon and spoon some of the marinade directly into the cuts. Cover with the wrap (to keep the garlic fumes in) and put in the fridge. Turn it over every hour to be sure it marinates evenly. A note on the marinating: The original recipe is for lechon asado, a stand-alone pork dish that is a staple of Cuban cuisine around Christmas time. You can use this marinade on pork shoulder of even an uncured ham (the ham could feed over 10 ppl and takes longer to cook, obviously). Raichlen calls for 12-24 hours of marinading, and if you would like to serve the pork loin stand-alone and not in sandwich form I would recommend that time frame. However since we’re making sandwiches, four to six hours should be fine.
After about 3 hours and 30 minutes of marinading let the pork finish outside of the fridge for the last half-hour. This gives the meat a chance to relax. You never want to put meat straight from the fridge onto the grill. After marinating is finally done, pour off and discard the marinade. Salt and pepper the loin. Once you have the grill ready (see above for setup directions, and don’t forget to clean the grate) place the pork in the center of the grate and cover.
After about an hour you will need to add more coals. Be very careful. Gently remove the pork from the grate and place it on a roasting pan. Using a metal prong or similar instrument (not your hands) remove the grate and add about 10 coals per side. Replace the grate, put the pork back where it was, and recover.
After the meat has been cooking for about 2 hrs 30 min it’s a good idea to get your sandwich fixings ready. Go ahead and slice the loaves in half, so you are left with six half-loaves. Apply mustard and set aside. Slice them down the middle horizontally. In the large pan, heat the ham slices. You don’t want to burn them, just brown them a little to enhance their flavor. Set aside once you’re done.
After 3 hrs remove the meat from the grill and place on the cutting board. Let it set for about 5 minutes so the juices have time to settle. Use this time to plug in the Foreman grill. Cut the pork into inch-thick slices. Each half-loaf should hold 1 1/2 – 2 slices of pork. Put the ham on top, then a slice of Swiss. Layer the pickles on top and sprinkle with pepper. Put the other half of bread on top to complete the sandwich. Place on the Foreman grill and press until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted. Slice in half and serve with maduros.
1 lb of sweetened banana chips
1 1/2 tbp olive oil
1 tbp salt
A note on the ingredients. Real maduros are made from slices plantains, but I found a good substitute. Whole Foods has a section in the store where you can make your own trail mix. One of the ingredients you can buy for less 2 bucks a pound is sweetened, dried banana chips. If you go on a lot of roadtrips for work like I do they make a great, healthy car snack. Anyway, toss the chips in a large mixing bowl with the oil and salt. Just use your hands and don’t be a wuss. Spread the chips on a large roasting pan. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. When it’s ready put the chips in and cook for about 20 minutes. The chips should be nice, brown and crispy.
Drink either a mojito, a cuba libre, or an Ironbeer and enjoy! Serves 6.
–by contributing chef Alex