Considering how many local specialties our area produces, from barbecue to gumbo to surprise burritos, it’s not easy for an item associated with another region to land on many menus here.
Somehow, the Cuban sandwich has managed to do just that, suddenly showing up in at least 10 casual-dining spots all across the county.
Not long ago, it was rare to find a Cuban sandwich outside of southern Florida.
The sandwich, which is made with ham, roast pork and Swiss cheese on a roll, was a favorite of the cigar-factory workers both in Cuba and later in Florida. As more Cubans emigrated to Florida, the sandwich became a staple.
The sandwich stayed in Florida for decades. At some point in recent years, however, the sandwich accomplished what Fidel Castro never did — a full-scale invasion of America. Even Hot Pockets now sells a “Cuban Sandwich” flavor.
Maybe it’s the high profile of Cuban-American politicians like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz or the Cuban-influenced beat of performers like Pitbull that brought the sandwich to the forefront, but maybe it’s just the right combination of tangy, crispy and juicy.
“It’s by far our most popular sandwich,” Mickey Wooten, owner of the South Shore Grille in League City, said. “We make dozens and dozens every day.”
The South Shore Grille, which calls itself “the American grill with a Cuban flair,” is no newcomer to the sandwich. “It’s been on our menu since we opened nine years ago,” Wooten said. “When we started the restaurant, we had a chef from Argentina who made some South American dishes, and now all our Cuban items are mainstays.”
Wooten has researched Cuban cuisine and said there is no definitive history of the Cuban sandwich.
“We’ve been to Miami’s Little Havana and traveled the coast of southern Florida to learn more about Cuban cooking,” he said. “There are various stories about the origin of the sandwich, but the important thing is just that it’s got good flavors.”
Miami also played a part in bringing the sandwich to The Jungle, a Galveston sandwich spot.
“We used to live in Miami, and we loved Cuban sandwiches there,” Vicky Morley said.
When she and her husband, David Morley, opened The Jungle three years ago, Cuban sandwiches were on the original menu and have remained there ever since.
The Morleys also are serving the popular sandwich at their recently-opened second Galveston location, the Jungle West, on Jones Drive near Schlitterbahn and Moody Gardens.
“We use fresh-cooked pork roast and serve it on a hoagie bun that’s pressed like a panini,” she said.
Roasting the pork also is an important step in making the Cuban sandwich served at The Herb Cafe and Market in Dickinson, where it is one of eight sandwiches on the permanent menu.
“Our chef, A. J. Robicheaux, just seasons it with salt, pepper and garlic,” Herb Café owner Adam Folden said.
The Herb Cafe’s Cuban gets an extra kick from specially-made mustard.
“We make our own mustard just for the Cuban sandwich,” Folden said.
1 hoagie or ciabatta roll
2 tablespoons yellow or Dijon mustard
4 ounces sliced ham
4 ounces sliced cooked pork loin
6 ounces sliced Swiss cheese
6 dill pickle slices
Preheat a panini pan to medium-high heat.
Spread the inside of the bread with the mustard and arrange the remaining ingredients on top.
Cover with the remaining roll.
Brush the top and bottom of the sandwich with olive oil and place on the panini pan.
Cover with a press and cook until the bread is slightly crispy and the sandwich is hot
(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy
Cuban Black Beans
1 pound black beans, rinsed and picked
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 bunch cilantro, minced
Soak the beans overnight in a large pot. In the morning, drain the water and set aside the beans.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for about 6 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add two cloves of the garlic and continue cooking for another 30 seconds.
Add the beans to the onion and garlic mixture and enough water to cover everything by an inch. Bring the beans to a boil then cover — leaving a small crack open. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
After an hour, stir the beans and add the remaining two garlic cloves and minced cilantro. Return to a simmer and cook another hour until the beans are tender and the cooking liquid is thick. Stir occasionally while cooking.
Once cooked, add salt and additional minced cilantro if desired. Serve beans over rice, purée and serve as black bean soup or save for additional uses.
(SOURCE: Recipe from “The Cuban Kitchen,”
by Raquel Roque)