What is Cuban food? According to Madelaine Vásquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondre, authors of the Cuba: the Cookbook, it’s quite a lot. Pasta, french fries, hamburgers, borscht, mullet with cheese and more vexing “Cuban” recipes. But the authors paint a picture of Cuba that’s something akin to the way Americans view their country — a melting pot. The pair argue Cuban history is marked with a who’s who of European and Caribbean influence — Russians, Italians, Haitians, Spaniards and so many more have influenced Cuban cooking and molded it to what we know it as now. And for most people outside Cuba that means one thing: the Cuban.
A splendid, crusty, mustardy, vinegary, meat-packed gem of an idea that, like the rest of its home country, is a sum of many parts. According to the book, some believe it was the Italians who brought the salami, the Spanish the ham, the Germans the pickles and mustard and the Cubans, naturally, the pork. By all accounts, this recipe is as definitive as we’ll get to what a Cuban actually is, which, as it turns out, is a lot of things.
3 tablespoons mustard
1 loaf Cuban bread (ends cut off, split in half lengthwise)
6 slices ham
9 slices roasted pork
9 slices genoa salami
9 slices Swiss cheese
9 slices pickle
½ tablespoon butter
6 lettuce leaves
1 large tomato (sliced)
½ small white onion (sliced)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
From Madelaine Vásquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondre Cuba: The Cookbook
A book dedicated to Cuban food, but not only what’s traditionally thought of as “Cuban” cooking. An exploration of immigration — be it Russian, Italian, Spanish or otherwise — you’ll find recipes for borscht and spaghetti and the classics, too. Buy Now: $31
1. Spread the mustard on the top half of the three sections of bread. On each bottom half, arrange two slices of ham, three slices of roasted pork, three slices of salami, three slices of Swiss cheese and three slices of pickle. Finish with the top half of the bread. Brush the outsides of the sandwiches with the melted butter and grill or pan-fry over medium heat until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the lettuce, tomato and onion. Dress with the vinegar, oil and salt and gently toss.
3. Cut the sandwiches diagonally. Serve on plates with the salad on the side.