It all started with a Pork Meeting.  Yesssss, I love it when that happens!  It’s been so cold outside, we wanted to warm up our home with a slow-cooked pork.  Simple to put together, full of bold flavor, and a powerful source of tantalizing smells and heat in the house.  In addition, cooking up a large piece of meat over the weekend gives us lunch options during the week and, with the pork, ultimately means we get to make Cuban sandwiches for dinner one night!  Hooray!

We started by creating a garlic, onion, citrus, and red pepper infused oil. Then we stabbed the pork a bunch of times, which felt mean, and poured the cooled oil over it.  We let this sit in our fridge overnight so the goodness could permeate the meat.  

Low and slow.  For a really long time.  That’s how we handled this pork shoulder.  It cooked for more than nine hours at 225 degrees in a roasting pan.  And we used the marinating oil as a basting liquid, painting some on every 45 minutes or so.  When it was finally finished, we just let it rest a while.  (Except for the small nibbles we HAD to take to make sure that it tasted good!)  

Then, we served some of it up with black beans and roasted broccoli.

On to Cuban sandwich night!  It’s not often that we have sandwiches for dinner, although I think Adam and I could both eat sandwiches several times a day easily.  Too much bread is overload on the starch and carbs for me.  So, I try to reserve sandwiches and wraps for “secondary recipes” for us and for clients.  Lots of people don’t love leftovers.  But what I do is employ leftover proteins in new and exciting ways, so they don’t feel like repeats- boring, played out, etc.  I have clients roast up a turkey tenderloin and make wraps a couple of days later to use their remaining tender meat but with a new spin.  Or, I’ll have folks roast a whole chicken and make a chicken caesar salad with the breast meat.  The goal is to utilize all of the ingredients!  The beauty of the “secondary recipe” is that you’ve already done the bulk of the work and you have home cooked meat to build upon, rather than having to buy something else at the store.  It takes forethought, and ingenuity, but that’s why I’m here!

Since we started the roasted pork from scratch with Cuban flavors, we kept tightly to the rules of Cuban sandwich creation.  Sometimes we veer off and add our own little twists.  But last night- we stayed traditional.  It all starts with the bread.  At our local market, we can usually find Cuban bread.  It makes a huge difference.  We’ve made this sandwich on a baguette before, and all the insides just squished out when I tried to eat it. Booooo.  It cost $2.00 for the whole Cuban loaf, and we only used half to make our sammiches last night.  Again- the freezer comes in handy for stretching that dollar.  

Yellow mustard, pickles, Swiss cheese, ham, roasted pork, period.  We pressed it in our awesome grill and panini press.  (Before we had that press, we made it work in the oven with cookie sheets and heavy pans!)  When the cheese got all melty, we knew it was time!  

I really wanted to make plantains as a side dish, but I couldn’t find any ripe ones at either market.  We decided to go with sweet potato chips instead.  

And I’ll be perfectly honest, we still need to experiment with them. Achieving just the right consistency for sweet potato chips in the oven is tricky.  We could deep fry ‘em up, no problem.  But, that’s part of the game- if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  And again, until I get it to a “recipe ready” point that I can share with clients.

The base of our salad was some of the most brilliant tasting arugula I’ve ever had.  It was bright and peppery and so fresh.  We kept the rest real simple with long carrot ribbons, sunflower seeds, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  

The dressing was an Asiago Peppercorn dressing that I created in honor of one of my clients.  I don’t usually gravitate toward creamy dressings, but I was experimenting for a client who is a huge fan of buttermilk ranch.  It turned out extremely well- thin enough to pour quickly, full of that strong Asiago bite, and peppery too.  

The outcome…I started by digging into my salad, and I didn’t want to stop eating it!  I was bowled over by how fresh, crisp, and vibrant it was. My Cuban bread toasted up perfectly.  It almost had the consistency of pastry the way it flaked when I took each bite.  I loved the saltiness of the meats, the tanginess of the pickles and mustard, and the creaminess of the cheese.  Yum.  The legwork we did ahead of time really made this dinner come together quickly and tastily!  

So host your own Cuban-arama!  Fix yourself a mojito, and enjoy!

Let me know if you need any help.

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