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Castro-free Cubans


No need to jet off to Havana to get your hands on a delicious and authentic Cuban sandwich.

Greg Elwell October 31st, 2012

As Oklahomans, there are some things about Cuba that we will probably never really experience.

Cuban cigars, for instance. Or communism. Or driving a Packard.

But here, a scant 1,245-mile car ride away from Havana (hold your breath through the Gulf of Mexico), we can enjoy one of the best things ever to come from that island nation: the Cuban sandwich.

For those unfamiliar with the culinary treat, the traditional Cuban combines ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, spicy mustard and pickles inside Cuban bread (fairly similar to a baguette). The sandwich is grill-pressed, almost panini-style, melting the cheese and fusing the ingredients together.

Chefs di Domani, 2727 W. Memorial, the student-run restaurant at Platt College, serves a pretty straightforward version of the Cuban ($9) on its lunch menu. The bread is nice and buttery. Inside, the sharp tang of dijon and house-made pickles complements the more savory aspects. It comes with a choice of soup, side salad or potato salad.

The recipe is the creation of instructor and chef Jonathan Groth, who said his Cuban is different because it’s made with braised pork.

“We make our own pickles so that the students can learn the techniques behind pickling,” he said. “It is my philosophy as a chef instructor that our students should make as much from scratch as possible.”

Another delicious take on the sandwich is available at Rococo Restaurant & Fine Wine, 2824 N. Pennsylvania, as part of the lunchtime bistro menu. The Cubano ($9) has tender sliced pork loin and Cure 81 ham, but the big draw is the spicy slaw.

Credit this one to Chef Rhiannon Roesler, who found herself craving this sandwich after moving back to Oklahoma City from New York. Unlike Manhattan, OKC doesn’t have whatever you want whenever you want it. While putting the sandwich together in the Rococo kitchen, she spied some of the slaw used for a catering job and thought, “This would taste fantastic.”

It’s a little more labor-intensive than other sandwiches, but Roesler said customers deserve a sandwich that’s one of the best available anywhere.

Plus, it means she always knows where to get a Cuban.

Cuban sandwiches aren’t exactly tiny, but when you go to ND Foods, 2632 N.W. Britton, be prepared to share. With piled-high shredded pork, ham and cheese, this Cuban ($9.59) is massive. Maybe that’s why it’s not grill-pressed.

Regardless, it’s enormous, it’s tasty, and while you’re there, you can get some amazing desserts. Take that, Castro!

If you want to go a bit further afield with your Cuban’s flavor, you should give Grouchy Sam’s mobile food truck a visit. On a menu that includes several other tasty sandwiches (the Caprese is a favorite), you’ll find the Carolina Cuban ($7 with a side).

It’s got pretty much everything you already love about a Cuban sandwich, but Sam’s swaps out the mustard for a Carolina-style mustard barbecue sauce. It’s a little sweeter than the others, but just as delicious.

When you think about it, Cubans and Oklahomans have a lot in common. A love of baseball. A fondness for old cars. Maybe that’s why the Cuban sandwich has enjoyed such a surge in our local restaurant culture.

Or not. I don’t really care why the sandwiches are here, just so long as I get to eat them on a regular basis.

 
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