I love it.
I had an amazing Cuban pork sandwich on our drive through Florida when we moved, I sent my parents off to get dinner for us when my youngest child was no longer functioning as a result of being exhausted and car sick from being on the road for nearly two weeks. They came back with this sandwich that I just about died over.
It could have been my extreme hunger… or exhaustion from dealing with a car sick 3 year old… or the fact that we had been dining out for 2 weeks… I don’t know, but that sandwich was the best thing I had eaten in a long time.
Naturally this restaurant was in the northern part of the state and no where near-where we live, so I have been forced to only dream of that delightful feast ever since.
I found the recipe for the smoked pork in a Nordstrom Cookbook that I’ve had for years but never made.
Of course there are many recipes for these sandwiches that simply use lunch meat but that’s not my style and certainly not what I was after.
I wanted the real thing.
I even watched an episode of Throwdown! with Bobby Flay where he challenges a Cuban guy in Miami on making these, so I feel pretty confident I got it right 😀
If you do it right, these might just be the best sandwiches you’ve ever had.
Eeeeek! Ok let’s get started:
- FOR THE SMOKED PORK MARINADE
- 1 bone in pork picnic roast with the skin, about 7-8lbs
- 4 cups orange juice (traditionally this is bitter orange juice but I have great success just using regular orange juice so either way)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1½ cups kosher salt
- 2 large heads garlic, peeled and crushed
FOR THE SMOKED PORK SPICE RUB
- 12 cloves garlic, chopped
- zest from 2 large oranges
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon granulated onion
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups cherry or alder wood chips soaked in water for about an hour
- charcoal briquets
- large foil pan
TO MAKE THE SANDWICH
- 1 loaf cuban bread or french bread
- stone ground mustard
- large dill pickles, sliced thinly
- sliced swiss cheese
- thinly sliced ham
- TO SMOKE THE PORK
- Place the roast in a large container for marinading, I used my bread tub which is actually a Tupperware cake transporter, inverted.
- Combine all the marinade ingredients and pour over the pork roast.
- Cover and marinade for at least 12 hours, I actually ended doing more like 48 because the weather here got stormy which was not conducive to smoking so I waited for a sunny, non-windy day. Just make sure you turn it regularly to marinade evenly.
- When ready to start smoking, take the roast out of the marinade and pat dry with paper towels, then combine all the ingredients for the rub and rub it all over the pork.
- Prepare an indirect fire in a charcoal grill or smoker.
- Put some water in the foil pan and place in the grill to help keep everything moist.
- Once the charcoal is ready, add the roast and the wood chips, I like to use a little metal box my dad got me for the chips. I get a good amount of smoke without burning up the chips too quickly.
- Keep the grill temperature at about 325˚, you can get a simple little thermometer that just sits right on the grill next to the meat for about $5 and it works wonderfully.
- Add about 8-10 briquets and wood chips to the fire every 45 minutes to an hour to maintain the heat.
- Smoke for a total of about 6-8 hours depending on how even you can keep your fire, this is something I am still learning so mine took a long time.
- Cook until a thermometer inserted in the meat reads 190˚.
- Remove the roast from the grill and let rest for about 30 minutes.
- While it is resting, gather together your sandwich making stuff, slice the cheese, the pickles, the bread.
- Once ready to assemble, pull the pork off the bone.
- Place a good amount of pork on the bread, top with cheese, then add some ham and pickles and top with more cheese.
- Spread the top bread with lots of mustard and place on the top.
- Heat a pan to medium heat and add a bit of butter.
- Place the sandwich(es) in the pan and press it down, if you have a panini press that would work amazing, I don't so I used another cast iron skillet and just set it on top of the sandwich. Once the cheese is starting to melt, flip it over and toast the other side.