Category Archives: Sandwiches

Stalking the Wild Cubano

Columbia

The Cuban sandwich is important. People fight for it and about it. Who created it and where? That is just the tip  of the loaf. My take? The Cuban sandwich is ubiquitous and no one will ever know its exact origin. Mystery is as beautiful as a slice of pink ham.

Were I a betting woman, and I am, for tiny bits of currency, my money would be, and is, on Tampa. Bet ya a nickel. Tampa is big though and pinpointing seems impossible.

The following are Cuban sandwich rantings, ravings, hurrahings and revelings. No answers and plenty of questions. 

“Miami was not even spit in the eye when Tampa was doing business with Havana,” Manteiga said. I believe it. Read and chose your conclusions here.

Meanwhile, if you are eating in Tampa and reaching for roots, the Cuban sandwich is the linchpin.

We sat at the Manteiga family’s private table, on ornately carved wooden chairs, in a corner of La Tropicana Cafe, which for decades has been a gathering place on Seventh Avenue for Ybor City’s immigrant community. Over a lunch of Spanish bean soup, Cuban sandwiches and deviled crab (a dish created by striking cigar factory workers in the 1920s), we chatted a bit about Tampa foodways and its ultimate fusion dish, crab chilau — blue-crab meat in a spicy enchilada sauce, often served over spaghetti — which perfectly represents Ybor City’s cultural mix. But mostly we talked history. More here.

Recently I had the good fortune to visit the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, Florida. FullSizeRenderThe Columbia is legendary and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about – a venture into another world, through a rabbit hole or trick door indeed. Columbia5

Also, I wanted to eat a Cubano in the city that claims to be its originator. One of the cities, I should say.

Columbia4

Talk of the Cubano elicits heated debate from all camps –  I have witnessed debates, and endless rabbit holes. The bread alone is google-maps-worthy. More on that later.

Columbia6Place of origin, salami or no salami, who bakes the proper bread, butter before pressing or not, exact ham, how manypic and…did I mention place of origin?Columbia3

I’ve been down this tunnel before and it’s no less twisty this time. Posts on Cubanos here and here and here and here and here, the first from ten years ago at the birth of The Lunch Encounter. Nevertheless, I am taking a stab at parsing the particulars, plain and simple. Here we go!

According to Clarissa Buch of Thrillist

In the mid-1800s, the Cuban tobacco industry emerged in Florida, where it first emerged in Key West. Later, tobacco moved north to Tampa, with thousands relocating to Ybor City — a historic neighborhood founded by cigar manufacturers with Cuban, Spanish, and Italian descent. Because of the influx of immigrants who mainly worked in factories, a quick, affordable lunch was yearned for. This marked the rise of the Cuban sandwich.

“Above all, you need a moist palmetto leaf on top of the dough before it’s baked,” says David Leon of La Segunda Central Bakery, the largest producer of Cuban bread in Tampa. “The dough rises and wraps around the leaf, giving the bread flavor.”

Family-owned La Segunda Central Bakery, which has been around for more than 100 years, chops nearly 60,000 leaves by hand each day, making about 18,000 loaves which are used in Tampa and shipped across the country, including Miami. “Ninety percent of the work is done by hand,” says Leon. “It’s a very old-school process. Using the leaf is what creates those peaks and valleys that Cuban bread is known for.”

After the bread is made, the ingredients are placed inside. The roast pork, says Astorquiza, must be marinated in mojo, which blends spices like bitter orange, oregano, cumin, garlic, onion, vinegar, and salt. The best way to do it, he says, is to marinate the pork overnight. The cheese must be Swiss, and if salami is used, it should be Genoa. If you’re extremely particular, make sure to use exactly three pickles. And, whatever you do, only use sweet cured ham (or something similar to it) because it’s crucial to not overpower the other ingredients’ flavors. Don’t forget mustard… and sometimes butter depending on where you’re eating.

Read more here.

Bread – crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, wider and flatter than a baguette, not nearly as hard a crust, the bread at Versailles in Miami has a little lard in its recipe and is “basically a pan de agua” – Puerto Rican water bread

Ham – mojo marinated, “sweet ham”

Pickles – dills sliced thinly lengthwise

Pork – loin or shoulder

Cheese – imported Swiss – why imported?

Salami – Genoa, peppercorn-studded preferred (Columbia Restaurant)

Mustard – yellow

Butter – butter the outside of the bread generously before pressing

Mauricio Faedo’s Bakery

The Columbia Restaurant’s recipe here. It does include salami and bread from La Segunda Central Bakery. The recipe headnote includes mention of a “smashed Cuban”, which is what you might expect, a heavily pressed sandwich.

The Columbia’s Pork Loin

Roast Cuban Pork:
1 each Fresh Pork shoulder (about 5 lbs.)
1 cup Sour Orange Juice (if not available, ½ cup lime juice and ½ cup orange juice)
8 each Large garlic cloves
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 each bay leaves

The Cuban Sandwich at Versailles in Miami’s Little Havana recipe here on Eater Elements.

Next time I am in Tampa I want to try La Teresita, but that will have to be after another visit to La Columbia. The place is huge, man, and I want to trip up and down every staircase, gaze into each mirror, wish on the individual tiles.

UPDATE! I have been to the Columbia again and to Segundo Bakery. So exciting! Posts to come. PTK. Hurrah! Hooray! Booyah!

 

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Pan Haus = Whole Hog

Loosey, not goosey. Loosey porky. On the menu was pan haus. On the web is pannhaas, panhoss, ponhoss, and pannhas. Translated literally to pan rabbit. Rabbits are so cute and they do taste good in a pan (forgive me). Mush it is, mush fried till crisp. No one thinks mush is cute and no one likes the word, but mush it is and perhaps we can reframe it. Mush. Say it five times when you are hungry and it begins to tantalize.

A Pennsylvania Dutch dish, pan haus is a “whole animal” affair, very au courant, and while it is typically served on the plate, as is, I think it would be terrific in a sandwich. With raw onion. And crisp lettuce. On pumpernickle. Mais oui oui! Oink oink!

PonHausFourth brown thing down is pan haus which, come to find out, is scrapple. I ordered it because I did not know what it was. With gladness did my heart leap when it arrived, brown, crispy and distinctly porky with that livery/offal edge.  The bf says it could have been more crispy and he was right. Minor detail and easily correctable though. Geez, it takes balls to put this stuff on a menu and I applaud you, Betty’s in Sheperdstown, WV, with my greasy mitts.

Not all agree that pan haus and scrapple are identical. The thing is, not all scrapples are identical, nor pan haus. They have yet to be corporatized, diminished into one formula. Variations proliferate. Hooray.

Betty’s seemed to have bread in it, in addition to corn meal and, frankly, very little actual pieces of meat, if any. The texture was soft, with no discernible corn meal crunch nor, according to the bf, a strong meat taste. I tasted liver and pork, although it was subtle. All for the best first thing in the a.m.

Recipes available online are limitless and they vary, as any decent dish does, according to the cook. Adding a splash of cider vinegar to the pork scraps while they simmer seems wise. Dashes of herbs and spices – savory, thyme, cloves, allspice – appeals.

In the words of Teri’s Kitchen To best describe scrapple, it is something like a meaty fried polenta, cornmeal to which seasonings and relatively lean cooked meat, usually pork, have been added. The cooked mixture is poured into loaf pans and refrigerated overnight to stiffen. Then it is sliced and fried in a little butter, oil or bacon grease. Scrapple recipes can vary greatly in ingredients, seasonings and methodology. In some versions, the tongue, liver and/or kidneys are used, just as they were in the original scrapple recipes, which were created to eliminate waste and use as much of the butchered animal as possible. Other recipes incorporate buckwheat or regular flour in addition to the cornmeal.

Betty’s, thank you for serving, sans irony or pretense or wide-eyed naivete, pan haus. Although, yours was so much more like rabbit in a pan than scrapple has ever been. Yours was unctuous and velvety, opulent in its frugality, subtle as is stewed rabbit.

And what does pan haus have to do with a sandwich, you ask. Well, some of the pumpernickel and pan haus, eggs and sausage gravy went home with me. Picture this, what a sandwich! Toasted bread hot mush salty gravy silken eggs. The stuff of which earthly, animally dreams are made.

New to me, pan haus, thankfully unseen previously on the webbity webb. Ribbity rabbity porky pan rabbit, right there to be discovered.

 

Reliable Source – Drive North – Poughkeepsie!

The Imports Mix, a “house favorite panini.” The anticipation triggered by the oil-soaked paper is almost as pleasurable as the eating. Almost.

 

My main sandwich man in New York nailed it once again, this time a bit north of his usual beat, sending me to Poughkeepsie on sandwich intel. He heard it from a guy, who heard it from a guy. Thank you, MMSMINY, once again, for steering me right.

When Rosticceria Rossi and Sons made their debut in 1979,  I was graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and packing up my apartment just blocks away. Poughkeepsie’s historic Italian neighborhood – the Mount Carmel District – was home, at the time, to several bakeries, but no rosticceria’s. Rossi’s fills that gap with gusto.

Just a couple blocks off the Mid-Hudson Bridge, Poughkeepsie’s  Little Italy hugs the river and feels cozy, tight knit and secluded. Give the wheel a hard pull and there you are. Your own private Italy.

Head to the back to order a sandwich, then browse the packed shelves and cases, drinking in the scents, while the strapping sandwich man loads your focaccia or ciabatta with prosciutto, sopressata, copper, olive salad, “spicy sauce”, arugula, whatever your pleasure. Giant pork roasts lounge in wait. Roasted peppers are mounded high, slick with olive oil.

Time simultaneously marches on and pauses in the Mount Carmel District. While Rossi’s is newish for this hood, the Caffe Aurora, opened in 1941, remains unchanged, at least since 1979 when I was last in. The potted palms flourish, the cookies abound, the air of quiet anticipation is deep and velvety yet. Espresso and cannoli for old time’s sake. And new.

Later the same day, on the grass, the majestic Hudson gliding by, I sank into my panini and sighed. Mmdemmlimmcious…

 

Shameless Self Promotion Number I-Lost-Count

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Renee’s website looks beautiful. Mine is due for an update and that will be happening this fall. Bout time and I’m excited for a new look.

This beef banh mi is from Australian Meat and Livestock. It not only looked amazing, but it tasted delicious – typically not a priority and a major perk for a stylist. Thank you Chef Roy Villacrusis.

The Australians with whom we work always impress me. The stereotypes – those with which I am familiar – apply. Hooray. The Australians I know – only stateside – are fun-loving, hard-working, no-nonsense, unpretentious and know how to eat. What’s not to like? Nuttin.

Australian friends turned me on to an essential food friendKEWPIE MAYONNAISE. How could I not know about this???  Totes adorbs and the top has a star opening that squeezes out ridged ribbons of unctuous tart mayo onto your food. Sandwiches, salads, cold meats, pizza if you are in Sweden. OH, you just want to SQUEEEEEZE it!!

Chef Roy Villacrusis Grassfed Beef Banh Mi

Servings 4

French colonists left the Vietnamese with a taste for baguettes and pâté for their sandwiches—known as banh mi. Chef Villacrusis uses Aussie grassfed steak with the surprise addition of brie cheese. Pickled vegetables and sliced jalapeños add the traditional zing.

Portion size: 1 sandwich
Alternate cuts: Ribeye

Ingredients:
1 pound Aussie grassfed strip steak
Kosher salt and black pepper as desired
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup shredded daikon
1/4 cup thinly sliced bell pepper
1 cup rice wine vinegar
Four each 6″ french baguettes, sliced lengthwise
1 cup prepared liver pâté
12 thin slices of brie cheese
1/2 cup fresh red ribbon sorrel leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup seeded, sliced jalapeños
1/2 cup Kewpie mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
For the steak:
preheat a grill over MEDIUM-HIGH heat. Season strip steak with salt and pepper, then cook to medium rare—about 4 minutes on each side. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing very thin.

For the pickled vegetables: Combine carrot, daikon and bell pepper in a small saucepan and top with rice wine vinegar. Cook on LOW heat for 30 minutes. Remove from pot and refrigerate until ready to use

To serve: Toast the baguette halves until slightly crisped, about 1 minute. Spread the liver pâté evenly on the bottom halves. Divide the sliced steak between the bread bottoms. Place 3 slices of the cheese over it. Add the sorrel, cilantro, pickled vegetables and jalapeños. Spread the mayonnaise on the cut sides of the top buns. Season with salt and pepper and put on the bun tops. Serve.

Chef notes: Kewpie mayonnaise is a brand from Japan that Chef Villacrusis prefers for his banh mi. It’s available at many Asian grocery stores.

 

Shameless Self Promotion Number 1 Ton Per Hour

Sriracha is the old gochujang. Beer is always the new brew.

Sriracha is being turned out at 1 ton per hour. Enough for every skunk-sprayed dog in the world to bath twice weekly for 2.3 years. Do your part and eat your share. On a sandwich.

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Photo by Renee Comet

Styling by Yours Truly
For Meat and Livestock Australia
There are loads of wonderful recipes on their site,  including the recipe for this stellar

Hot Sriracha Grass-Fed Beef Sandwich. 

Those are oven-roasted tomatoes in there. Ta-dah!

Shameless Self Promotion Number 100,000

Tis the Season for Sandwiches

So, this is ran yesterday on the Chesapeake Fine Food Group blog. Full disclosure: CFFG is and has been my client for many, many years. The catalog is gorgeous and the food is topnotch. Honest.

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National Sandwich Day may fall on November 3, but sandwiches are surely most honored on the days following Thanksgiving, when everyone’s  fridge is loaded with amazing seasonal fixings, particularly if you think to cook – or buy – enough for leftovers.
Note to self: make plenty.

Should you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner mid-day, by bedtime you’ll be in need of a tide-me-over to breakfast. My favorite under these circumstances has always been the antidote to the feast – simply Roasted Turkeyhttp://www.mackenzieltd.com/roasted-turkey Turekyor Herbed Turkey Breasthttp://www.mackenzieltd.com/herbed-turkey-breast on thin-sliced sandwich bread. Still have a bit of Thanksgiving ambition in you? Add a swipe of Blue Cheese-Chive Butter http://www.mackenzieltd.com/savory-butters-one-of-each-flavor and a leaf of crispy lettuce.  That should do for a sandwichy nightcap.cts35

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, reprise the groaning board with a customized gobbler – the Turkey/Stuffinghttp://www.mackenzieltd.com/cranberry-sausage-stuffing-1990 /Cranberry Relishhttp://www.mackenzieltd.com/cranberry-orange-relish triple threat. I like a little warm gravy on the side for dipping – the American dip, so to speak, which ought to be a classic.

cbc_pic_3Day three, the Saturday following Thanksgiving, and you are, undoubtedly a little tired of turkey. Let’s hope Macaroni and Cheese http://www.mackenzieltd.com/side-dishes/casserole/macaroni-cheese?___SID=U was one of your Thanksgiving sides. Hey, how about a grilled macaroni and cheese sandwich? It’s a thing, you know, and for good reason. Two nice slices of bread, both buttered on one side, a thick slab of mac-and-cheese in the middle, and grill away. A little bit of bacon orhttp://www.mackenzieltd.com/honey-cured-ham-8-9-lb if you’ve got it, would not gild the lily.

And finally, to top off the weekend, turkey or ham Biscuitsbcs24_1http://www.mackenzieltd.com/classic-biscuits-simple are in order for Sunday brunch or lunch. That and a long afternoon nap should segue you comfortably into the post-holiday weekdays. Week days that will, if you are lucky, be punctuated by a few more turkey sandwich lunches!

 

Photos by Dean Alexander and styling by me!
IMG_1051

 

Duke’s

Speaking of summer, let’s get on with it. Festival of the lights be here, be gone, longer days, bring it on! Tomato sandwiches, please. I did not have anywhere near enough of them last summer. Or the one before.

Jeff Saxman, a terrific Richmond photographer, generously added the Duke’s cookbook to my library. We have done quite a bit of work together for Duke’s and I dig it – the mayonnaise and the work with Jeff.

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You will find nice straightforward recipes on the Duke’s website – Lobster Rolls, like the one above, and Tomato Sandwiches among them. See, here you go.

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What’d I tellya? Easy peasy. In lieu of Grill Shakers, in case you don’t have it and don’t want to run out, salt and pepper are good. They are almost always good, such a pair.

You know this sandwich is dependent on the tomatoes, which are dependent on the season, no matter how many hydroponic farmers and overnight freight shippers might tellya, right? Wait it out till tomatoes are hot on the vine.

Then, get out the Duke’s and bread. That’ll do-ya. Here’s what’s in Dukes:Ingredients: Soybean oil, eggs, water, distilled and cider vinegar, salt, oleoresin paprika (it’s just paprika, not to worry) natural flavors, calcium disodium EDTA (not sure where I stand on this stuff) added to protect flavor.

As a Southern thing, Duke’s knows its way around a tomato sandwich, that much I know for sure. And I’m gonna look into that calcium disodium thing.

Duke's Cover

Duke’s Mayonnaise

Duke's Tomato Sandwich