Cuban Roasted Pork and Cuban Sandwiches

If you watched the movie The Chef, you probably wanted to eat a Cuban sandwich the entire second half of the movie.  Maybe that’s just my inner fat kid talking but ever since watching that movie I’ve had a hankering for Cuban food.

My favorite spot, Versailles (both in Miami and in LA, different owners I believe), are a little out of reach. I decided to take matters into my own hands and roast a pork leg and make some damn sandwiches!  Isn’t that how all good stories start?

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we just need a good sandwich.

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The ingredients are simple: roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, pickles.  But simple is definitely not what I would call this sandwich.

All this started with roasted pork marinated overnight in orange, lemon and lime juice with lots of garlic, onion and oregano.  Then I roasted it on high heat to get it crispy then let it cook low and slow for about 4 hours.

I’m not sure how to make a hunk of meat look good, but here it is.

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A hunk of meat that got lots of TLC.  Then I sliced it up thin as the base for my cuban sandwiches.  You should know they’re delicious because I’m eating one as I type this.  My keyboard is greasy and I’m ok with that.  So let’s get started.  You start with the pork….

Cuban-Style Roasted Pork

1 pork leg (mine was about 7lbs)
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lime juice
20 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
handful of fresh oregano

Cuban Sandwiches

a few slices of cuban-style roasted pork, recipe follows
2 slices of ham
1 slice of swiss cheese
some pickles
some mustard
dang good bread*
a bit of butter (for grilling your sandwich)

In a blender, blend together juices, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and oregano.  Pierce pork as much as you can with a paring knife.  Pour juice mixture over pork leg and marinate overnight.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 450F.  Transfer leg to a roasting dish and roast at 450F for 20 minutes, reserve the excess marinate.  After 20 minutes, turn down the heat to 300F and continue to cook 4-6 more hours.  If you want it falling off the bones tender, cook it longer.  If you want it sliceable, it should be ready around 4 hours.  If you slice it and it’s still bloody, throw it back in the oven.

While your leg is baking, transfer the excess marinade into a sauce pan and boil for about 5-10 minutes.  This will be the perfect side mojo sauce for dipping your pork in, also great with rice and yucca.

Once you remove the pork from the oven.  Let it chill on the counter for about 10 minutes on its own.  Then slice for sandwiches.  Now you’re ready to assemble your sandwiches.

*A note about “dang good bread.”  Cuban bread is delicious.  It’s soft and wonderful but not always easily accessible.  I used hoagie rolls I found at the grocery store.  It did the job.  Do with that what you will.

Spread your dang good bread with mustard (I like a good amount of mustard on there), then top with pickles, ham, roasted pork slices and swiss cheese.

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Put the sandwich together and grill it.  If you have a panini press, use that.  If you’re not fancy (like me), put it in a pan with a bit of butter then place another pan on top with a jar of something heavy to weigh it down.  And ta-da! Instant panini press on the cheap.

Allow to cook a few minutes (low and slow is the best way to go so the cheese melts), then flip and cook for a few more minutes until toasted and melty and delicious.

Slice in half and serve.  Repeat with however many sandwiches you’d like to make.

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A whole pork leg will yield a lot of meat, and I understand that this is definitely a process, but trust me, it’s worth it.

So invite your friends over, roast a pork leg and make some sandwiches, then go for a walk because you’ll probably need to walk this off.

What’s your favorite type of sandwich?   This is a tough one for me. This Cuban sandwich was amazing but I also love Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches.  Maybe that should be my next sandwich attempt!  But first… I’m running my first half marathon next Sunday, wish me luck!

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Spicy Black Bean and Kale Grilled Cheese

So a few weeks ago I told you about how Green Mountain Mustard sent me some of their mustard for me to try.  I originally proposed to make a grilled cheese sandwich and then stumbled upon the epic idea that became my German Nachos(ish).  But ever since, I’ve been thinking about how delicious their mustard is, because really it is, and how I NEED to make a grilled cheese with it.  But not just any grilled cheese, an amazing one and so I finally did.

Yesterday, all I could think about was grilled cheese, and since it was Meatless Monday, why not make something epically delicious to show the world how wonderful meatless can be.

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I mean. Can we take a minute and observe the cheesy goodness?

 

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Now I’m going to have to come clean with you.  I probably ate this in about 3 minutes.  I didn’t have a stop watch, but before I knew it, it was gone.  I think that’s a good sign.  Then my mouth was a little bit on fire, because this mustard is straight up PICANTE.  If you’re a fan of spice, you’re going to love this.  If spicy isn’t your thing, it’s cool.  We can still be friends, use regular mustard, or skip it.

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Spicy Black Bean and Kale Grilled Cheese

1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp cilantro finely chopped
1 kale leaf, veined and chopped
1/3 cup black beans, cooked

1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp butter, softened
2 slices of whole wheat bread*
1 tbsp Barn Burner, Red Habanero Mustard

2 slices sharp white cheddar

Grease small skillet and turn on to medium heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, and kale.  Sautee a few minutes until soft.  Add black beans, cilantro, cumin and salt and pepper.  Cook a few minutes then transfer to plate.  Using a fork, mash beans lighly and set aside.

 

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(Note: I didn’t fit all of this in the sandwich so I just ate it on it’s own and it’s delicious. The end.)

Spread bread with butter and turn over then spread with mustard.  Lay 1 slice of cheese on each side (on the mustard side, since you’ll be grilling the buttered side).  Spread one side with black bean mixture and put the sandwich together.

Place sandwich on griddle heated to low.  Cook a few minutes until golden, flip and cook a few more minutes until golden and cheese is melted.  Remember when it comes to grilled cheese, slow and steady wins the race.  In case you forgot here are my tips for fabulous grilled cheese.

 

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Serve immediately and slice if desired.

*Note: I got my bread at Black Market Bakery. If you’re in OC, try it! Amazingly delicious, fluffy and fresh! Also free of preservatives!

This combo was amazingly delicious.  Obviously I’m biased, because I LOOOOOVE black beans, but you should definitely give this a shot.  I think this would be even more amazing dipped into sour cream, because who doesn’t love dipping sandwiches in sauces?

Please also note that if you decided to add bacon and avocado to this, I wouldn’t judge you.

If I could, I would invite you all over for this spicy black bean grilled cheese, but since we’re far away, make it and tell me if you love it.  How does that sound?

What’s your favorite grilled cheese combo?

Brie Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwich and My Top 5 Tips for the Perfect Grilled Cheese

So remember when I finished the Paleo Challenge, I learned I needed to eat actual meals instead of snacks for dinner?

Well I’m trying to get better at that.  I’ve been trying to incorporate more salads into my dinners, like the Roasted Beet Asparagus and Arugula salad in my last post.   But today and yesterday were long days.  I’ve been stressed and I’ve had a headache since I woke up today.

To remedy all that, I did two things:

1. Went to the Good Will

Thrift shops in Orange County aren’t as cheap in the song, nor are they as cheap as they were in Central NY.  But I still managed a few good finds.

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A tart pan for $2.50, a lovely oval shaped plate for $4.99 (over-priced in my opinion) and a cake plate for $2.50.  I also managed to find a rotating cake stand that will be great for frosting cakes.

2.  Grilled Cheese

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Let’s be more specific.  Brie Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese.

Now don’t get me wrong, traditional caprese with mozzarella is lovely, but seriously.  This sandwich is out of this world.

Last week someone asked me for tips on a good grilled cheese.  Obviously it’s all a questions of taste but here are…

My Top 5 Tips for Making the Perfect Grilled Cheese

1. Good Bread.  If your bread sucks, your grilled cheese will too.  Don’t you dare you sliced white bread.  Invest in some good bread.  I used Trader Joe’s Italian Bread.  Tasty enough.  Orange County is seriously lacking in good bread bakeries.

2. Make sure there’s cheese on both sides of the bread.  If you’re putting something other than just cheese, you need to make sure the cheese is on both sides.  The cheese is the binding agent.  If you don’t have it on both sides, it’ll all fall apart.

3.  Use Real Butter.  If you’re going to make a grilled cheese, now’s not the time to be healthy by avoiding butter.  No.  You’re choosing to make grilled cheese.  If you wanted a healthy meal, you’d make a salad.  Use butter.  It makes your bread golden, toasty and delicious.  Don’t skimp.

4. Mustard.  Unless you’re making a grilled cheese sandwich with some sort of jam, mustard almost always makes a grilled cheese taste better.  Cheese and mustard just go together.  I’m not talking about yellow mustard.  I’m talking tasty dijon-style mustard or the kind with the wonderful mustard seeds in it.  If you hate mustard, you can ignore this comment.  But if you like mustard, trust me.  Give it a try.

5. Low and slow.  Don’t turn the flame on high! Heat your pan to medium/low.  It might take a few minutes for it to get golden and for the cheese to melt, but that’s way better than a burnt piece of bread with hard cheese in the middle.  Be patient.  It’ll be tastier.

That’s pretty much there is to it.  Oh and if you use sliced Kraft American Cheese or Velveeta… You’re dead to me

Brie Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese

2 slices of amazingly tasty bread of your choice
a big pat of butter
1-2 oz brie, sliced (keep the rind! it’s tasty!)
3-4 tomato slices
1-2 basil leaves, chopped

Spread each slice of bread with butter on one side.  On the other side, layer cheese tomatoes and basil.  I try not to use too much cheese because brie is pretty strong, so I put half the cheese on one side and the bread and the other half on the opposite half of the other piece (does that make any sense?  See the pic below)

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Heat pan to medium/low heat.  Place sandwich, butter side down on pan.  Cook about 3 minutes per side or until golden all around and cheese in the center has melted.

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Serve with a bowl of soup and enjoy!  I had it with a bowl of Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup.  Tastiest soup from a box ever.  I promise!

Added bonus: This month is National Grilled Cheese Month.  I have no idea who decided that but I support, and so should you.  Eat Grilled Cheese Today!

P.S. Dunking is encouraged.

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The EBA: Egg Bacon Avocado Breakfast Sandwich

I love breakfast.  It’s seriously the best meal out there.  If I could have brunch out every day, I’d be totally happy.  But sometimes you need to save money and calories.  Tomorrow, I’m having Sunday Brunch out with friends.   So making something special at home that hits the spot was the right way to go.

This says it all.

According to Facebook, you all love runny yolks as much as I do. So tomorrow morning… or really right now… save yourself a few bucks and make this delightful breakfast creation.

EBA: Egg Bacon Avocado Breakfast Sandwich

1 slice of bacon
1 egg
1/4 avocado, sliced
2 pieces of bread

Fry the bacon in a small skillet over medium flame until desired level of crispiness.  In the meantime, toast your bread and slice your avocado.  Remove bacon from pan and place on a paper towel, once cooled, break in half so you have two pieces.

Wipe off some of the bacon grease from the skillet.  Turn flame on med/low and crack egg into pan.  Once the white part has set enough for you to flip it, flip the egg and cook an additional minute (or more if you’re blasphemous and don’t like runny yolks).  Transfer egg onto 1 slice of bread.  On the other side, lay slices of avocado then bacon.

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Put together and enjoy!

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I swear the runny yolk is what makes this so amazing.  Or maybe it’s the bacon.  Or the avocado…

You’d think that based on the number of desserts I made I would be all about sweet breakfast items, but no.  I generally prefer savory breakfast foods.

What about you?  Do you prefer savory or sweet breakfast?  What’s your favorite breakfast/brunch menu item?

Fig-Arugula-Goat Cheese Sandwich with a side of Kale

I have a confession.

I hate cooking at night.

Not always but most of the time.

Most days, I wish someone would cook dinner for me so that I wouldn’t have to touch the kitchen past 2pm.  I guess that’s not totally true.  Cooking for others at night is fun.  Cooking for myself, not so much.

Baking in the morning is my favorite.  Making elaborate lunches runs a close second.

Like this guy.

No no, that’s not a boring sandwich.  Don’t be fooled, it’s amazing and perfect in every way.  I plan to eat it for the next few days. You should try it too.  Here’s what you do to make 1 wonderful lunch (or dinner I suppose):

Fig-Arugula-Goat Cheese Sandwich with a side of Kale

2 slices of bread (I used oat nut something or other), toasted
1-2 oz goat cheese
2-3 figs, sliced (I have a tendency to eat pieces as I slice, so 3 for me)
1 handful of arugula
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 cups of chopped kale
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

Place 1 sliced fig and 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until reduced (about 5 minutes, you can do this while you prepare the rest of the sandwich).

Spread the goat cheese on the toasted bread (either on one side or both, I did one side).  Lay the sliced figs one side, the arugula on the other.  Once the balsamic reduction is ready, drizzle it on the figs and arugula and your sandwich is ready.

Next make the kale, heat oil in a pan to medium/high.  Add kale, garlic, salt and pepper and stir around.  Add some water if it’s too dry.  Once the kale has cooked (but is still pretty bright green), top with remaining (or just some, if you don’t like things too acidic) balsamic reduction and cooked figs.

Crumble some more goat cheese over it, if you’d like, and serve along side your sandwich!

Best eaten at lunch but works well for dinner too… If that’s your thing…  And if it is, come over and make me dinner!

Also Reminder:  Summer in a Box Giveaway ends Saturday!