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JayPo’s Penalty Boxed Lunch: The Cuban Sandwich

What is your favorite style: Miami, Tampa...or the JayPo?

All Star Sandwich Bar In Inman Square Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Welcome to JayPo’s Penalty Boxed Lunch where we explore food from around the country! This week’s first official entry comes to us from Florida via Cuba in the form of the Cuban or Cubano sandwich.

Food History!

Where does the Cuban sandwich come from? Legend (Wikipedia) will tell you that immigrants from Cuba brought this delicacy to Florida (specifically the Keys) to which is spread across the state in Cuban communities in Miami and Tampa. The ingredients (that can be agreed on) include: mojo pork, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard on a cuban roll. This version we’ll call the Miami version. The Tampa version includes genoa salami which sounds great too!

How I Made it!

Perhaps this disqualifies from even calling my version (the Miami) a Cubano, but I wasn’t able to obtain Cuban bread. Believe it or not, South Jersey doesn’t have a surplus of Cuban bakeries! I went Italian instead, so please forgive me. For the mojo pork, I took a pork shoulder and marinated it overnight in orange juice, lime juice, garlic and an arrangement of spices. Next day we went low and slow with the roast until it was crispy on the top and juicy on the inside. After that I sliced it best I could, added a slice of spiral ham, pickles, swiss and mustard to the bread and pressed it down on the griddle to melt the cheese and get those grill marks.

Didn’t turn out too bad if I do say so myself! I’m not even a fan of yellow mustard and pickles. However, I thought I could improve upon it with doing another version of the sandwich. This time I would get rid of the two ingredients I didn’t care for and replace it with homemade pickled jalapeños and honey mustard. I have to say...this was a stark improvement that I won’t apologize for.

What Does a Local Think? (h/t to Steve of Flyperbole fame)

Do you think the Cubano represents Florida accurately?

I think it represents South Florida well. It’s lean, delicious and has such a flair all its own. The rest of Florida would have to be represented by some sort of sandwich that would explode in your face while committing a crime. Finish the sentence: Florida sandwich accused of _____________.

How do you make your Cubano?

I don’t dare make it myself, because I know I’d screw it up. But here are the important things. Somehow, this sandwich has two different types of pig in it and it works! Proportions are key. Thin sliced ham, and a good amount of pork, but not too much! If it’s overloaded and a pain in the ass to eat, then it’s not a proper Cubano. Pickles, mustard, that thin bread. The bread must be the right level of thin. I would go with some high quality cheese too. I don’t often eat Swiss, so go big, or go home.

How did I do?

Your version, while looking very tasty, is just a little bit off. The bread is a little thick, but as you said, you could not get Cuban bread. The pork chunks are too thick for me, I might have gone with more of a pulled consistency or thinner slices. As for the Cubjaypo, I would have gone with a spicy brown mustard instead of a honey mustard if I was changing things up, but I would certainly try it!

Where do you order your favorite Cubano?

I still dream of the Cubano that I ate at the 5 Brothers Sandwich Shop in Key West. That was well worth the walk off of the main stretch in the most humid place I’ve ever set foot in. In Philadelphia, I cannot have this deliciousness. That said, Woodrow’s makes a really, really good Cubano that I would recommend to anyone.

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