My husband had to leave on a business trip recently. It was hard. We aren't used to being apart.
But I also didn't realize that we are very much not the seasoned travelers. We aren't those people who can check off far off lands that they've visited.
At first I was thinking "What a shame, we don't get out much." Then it sort of hit me - why is that such a bad thing?
I have many friends who are quite the travelers. They can pack up a bag and head out to distant and exotic lands and be totally comfortable doing so.
I used to think that was how it should be, or maybe that was just a better way to live.
You see, as much as I'd like to think I'm a "free spirit", I'm not a pack it up and go type of gal.
I like to research and plan and plot and I crave comfort and stability and knowing that MY pillow will be there for my head to land on at night.
I like trying tons of new things, but for some reason the travel bug has not found me and sunk it's teeth into my calf. I'll take my quiet and simple travels few and far between thank you.
I'm not saying that I'd slap off the travel bug so quick if it found me, but right now I prefer to find far off places somewhere in my kitchen.
Cuban food was off the map for me entirely until that fateful day when Anty T and I met at the PostalAnnex. Between her and her family, the world of Cuban cuisine became a journey.
Living in Arizona there is no short supply of food of the latin variety. Mexican food restaurants ranging from super gringo to fantastically authentic line the streets here. It was shortly after meeting Teresa I noticed that there was ONE cuban restaurant. One.
Most of my knowledge of Cuban cuisine comes from the books Teresa's mom lent to me, or the lovely Wednesday dinners I would crash with Teresa and her Abuela and Abuelo. I cherish those times listening to her grandparents tell stories in their sing songy spanish. My French allowed me to pick out the gist and Teresa would fill in the rest.
Later I would cook meals for Abuela after she no longer could for herself. She would sometimes recite simple and flavorful recipes for me to bring to her the next week. I fell in love with this Cuban style; uncomplicated, multi influenced, hearty food.
I may have Little Havana pinned on my short list of places to see in my life. This short list is full of places with big eating. Until then I will stay cozy in my cocoon; my kitchen that brings the journey to me.
These are Cuban Sandwich Sliders. They are everything I love about a Cuban sandwich with a couple of tweaks to satisfy my odd slights with the original. Slight #1 - I'm not big on swiss cheese. These sandwiches are adorned with gruyere, a slightly more mild form of swiss. Slight #2 - I'm not a fan of pressing every sandwich for the sake of pressing a sandwich. Sometimes the bread is best left as is.
I used those frozen house roles for these because they are the perfect size and are slightly sweet. Traditional Cuban bread has a slightly sweet crust and it's a perfect pairing for this sandwich.
Cuban Sandwich Sliders
1 pork shoulder
juice of 1 orange**
juice of 1 lime **
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion sliced
2 teaspoons oregano
Sliced deli ham
gruyere cheese sliced thin
dill pickles sliced thin
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
1 package house rolls
Preheat oven to 300º. In a large dutch oven with a tight lid add 1 Tablespoon oil and heat over high heat. Season pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Sear pork on each side until nice and brown. Turn the heat off, add the lime and orange juice, garlic, onion and the meat. Place the lid on and bake in the oven for 3 hours or until cooked through and tender.
To make your Cuban sliders:
In a small bowl mix together the mayo and mustard (mayo is not traditional at all but I likes it). Follow the directions on whatever brand rolls you purchase to bake or heat them. Cut the rolls in half. Smear a teaspoon or so of the mayo mustard mix onto each roll half. After your pork has cooled, slice it into relatively thin slices. Assemble your sandwiches with slices of pork, deli ham, gruyere, and pickles. Enjoy!
**If you are so fortunate to find sour oranges you could use them here in place of the orange and lime juices. I have a very hard time finding them, but I do have a hookup with a local Cuban who's grandparents planted a tree.
I know that you're wanting more, who wouldn't?
The Poet, aka Teresa, aka the Cuban I'm referring to over and over here, cooked me a traditional Cuban dinner. Yeah, the Poet can cook too. Coming soon to go with her meal is a translation of one of Abuelas favorite poems. Be sure to check it out. There is also going to be a wild rumpus of cocktails made with those fantastic sour oranges on The Poet and The Cook. I'm very excited!
Happy trails to all you travelers. I'll stay here and stir the pots.