Mike's Recipe for Sept. 2011 - Cubans
I struggled with picking a new Recipe for myself for September. I bit off quite a bit last month. I also enjoyed working with Heather to make her birthday lunch sandwich so it made sense to go with a sandwich for this. One thing is certain. It takes an abstract feeling to be a good cook. I'm definitely still searching for it.
We had plenty of cukes from our garden and they were just begging to be pickled. This was the inspiration for deciding to make a Cuban. It's hard to go wrong with pork, more pork, and pickles. I went in search of a good recipe. Two jumped out at me. Alton Brown's and Bobby Flay's. There is a very distinctive difference between the two. Alton's uses only deli meat. Bobby's includes slow cooking your own pork and making your own pickles. Did I take the easy way out and go with Alton's? Yes. I did decide to use Bobby's refrigerator pickle recipe though.
We were running late with these posts in September (hence why this one is going up in October). Heather did a good job and pestered me into getting the pickles going late one night. She was worried about the bread she got for the sandwiches going bad. Putting them together was fairly quick. We actually had to go out and pick some fresh dill from the garden using the flashlight because it was dark out. Once all the ingredients were together, I simply brought them up to a boil on the stove and then took them off to cool.
While they were cooling I got to cutting up our strange lemon cucumbers. Heather did a lot of coaching here, showing me the best way to get them peeled and cut as well as suggesting that these particular cucumbers will be a lot better if they are seeded. As a result, our pickles were these cool little arc shapes.
After the brine cooled, I poured it over the cucumbers, sealed up the container, and put it in the fridge to pickle overnight.
I decided to assemble and cook the sandwiches completely on the deck. I got a bit overconfident and thought it would be cool to do the entire thing without even letting Heather watch. They were sandwiches. How could I possibly mess this up?
I started out by buttering the inside of the bread and toasting that. This was my own idea. I thought it would be cool to make sure that no part of the bread went un-toasted. This went surprisingly well. I got a nice crust on both, took them off, and started assembling the sandwiches.
Following Alton's instructions, I spread both sides of the sandwich with mustard and then started stacking the meat. I did a thin layer of the pork, a thick layer of the ham, another thin layer of pork, and then spread some pickles on. After a healthy portion of provolone on top, I squished them down and buttered the outsides in preparation for the grill.
Cubans tend to be done in panini presses so I wanted to make sure I achieved this squished style on the grill. Thanks to another great suggestion from Heather, I used one of our heavy pizza stones. This allowed me to set the sandwiches on the grill, place the stone on top, press it down quite firmly, and fully close the grill with it still on top. I had the grill set on medium heat.
While this first cooking pass was happening, I decided to take the opportunity to clean up a bit. I brought all the leftovers into the house and put them away. I immediately came back out to flip the sandwiches. I couldn't have been gone for more than three minutes. Of course, the bottoms of the sandwiches got well done. On top of that, they were also sticking to the grill considerably. Was this all a product of cooking them too long? Did I not butter them well enough? I don't know. What I do know is that Heather always seems to have a gut feeling that is spot on when it comes to stuff like this. I, on the other hand, always seem to do the wrong thing.
I pressed on, scraping them off the best I could. I flipped them and left them on the other side for a much shorter time. That side came out with a beautiful golden brown toast. Hey, at least I could plate them with the bad side hidden!
All in all, they still tasted really good. Combination of mustard and the homemade pickles really gave it a good amount of tang. Heather appeared to enjoy them. I know she would never admit something was gross about my cooking though, so I'll never truly know if she really liked them.
Mike on October 6, 2011 at 8:01pm EDT