The Hottest Spot North Of Havana...

It occurred to me tonight as I was sitting down to my supper that I've never blogged about what is perhaps the most common meal that I make -- panini. Studies have revealed that the most common dinner item in the United States is the sandwich, but I try to make the staple into something a little more special. I'm not sure how I got into making panini; some time ago I came into the possession of a panini pan consisting of a small non-stick grill pan and a heavy, metal weight for pressing the sandwiches. I had the pan a long time before I actually used it, largely because I am somewhat of a failure when it comes to the art of griddled food. To this day, I can't master grilled cheese (of the garden variety white bread-American cheese extraction). I end up with something that's either burnt on the outside and cold in the middle, or soggy on the outside with overly melted cheese. I also can't make pancakes to save my life. As a result, the panini pan was a little intimidating for me.

To the best of my recollection, the first panini I ever made was an ad hoc meal designed to use up some pesto I had made from some garlic scapes I bought at the farmers' market. Scapes (the shoots and blossoms of the garlic plant) had been the "it" food among foodies that summer, so I bought them and made a basic pesto from them, as many publications suggested. It was... not tasty. Garlic scapes were not for me. Eating it straight up on pasta was like eating pure, raw garlic. So to use it up, I decided to marinate some chicken breasts in the puree, accurately predicting that cooking would help considerably in removing some of its bite. I then had leftover chicken breasts, so I decided to pair them with some mozarella cheese and make hot sandwiches using my panini pan. The resulting panini was so crispy, full of delicious melted cheese, and quick that they soon went into my regular dinner rotation. Around Thanksgiving I came up with another variation that consisted of leftover turkey, thinly sliced apple, cranberry mustard, and munster cheese. It too was a success. On a more regular basis, I settle for deli turkey and munster cheese, toasted to a golden perfection. Then came the Cuban sandwich.

Maybe not the most attractive Cuban sandwich I've ever made, but it tasted mighty fine.

I've long been enamored of the Cuban sandwiches at Cafecito, a small sandwich shop near my apartment, and yet, even with a cheap, plentiful source nearby, I was still driven to try to recreate the sandwiches at home. The ingredient list is relatively simple: yellow mustard, pickles, ham, swiss cheese, and pork roast. The last of these was the problem for me -- I seldom cook meat, much less a large cut such as a pork roast. As a result, I only make Cubans when I can steal leftovers from Mom, who prepares pork roasts with far greater frequency than me. In exchange, she gets a perfectly crisp, well-balanced sandwich. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I think it's a pretty good deal for her. If you play your cards right, I might consider making a panini for you too some day...

1 comment:

  1. My goodness what I would give for a Cuban sandwich here in Japan....or any half decent sandwich, really.