I've spent a bit of time in South Florida, mostly in Fort Lauderdale and South Beach, and whenever I go, I usually seek out a good Cuban sandwich in between my time lounging on the beach reading books. I recently went down to Miami for work and decided to get out of my usual routine and explore some of the areas outside of South Beach instead. My friend Marvin took me on a food tour through Little Havana, an area packed with Cuban exiles—and Cuban food.
We started with the famous lunch counter El Mago de las Fritas for fritas, a Cuban take on a hamburger topped with raw and cooked onion and crispy potatoes on one of the softest buns I've ever had, as well as freshly made chicharrones. We then popped over to El Palacio de los Jugos for a fresh passion fruit juice and a wander through the stalls of fresh Cuban food and produce. Next stop: Calle Ocho, one of the main streets that runs through Little Havana, host to many festivals and music events. This particular day was butty and a bit rainy, so the streets were a bit quieter than usual, Marvin explained. Nearly as soon as we'd parked, rain hit hard, so we ducked into Ball and Chain–a historic bar and nightclub which has hosted numerous jazz greats, including Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong–to hide and indulge in a Calle Ocho Old Fashioned: a Cuban take on an old fashioned featuring rum instead of whisky and tobacco bitters instead of Angostura. It was heaven, and it sparked enough of an appetite to send us across the street to El Exquisito, where Marvin ordered us a sandwich: a Medianoche.
A medianoche, he explained, means "middle of the night" in Spanish, and the layers of roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles are just the thing for an late night after hours of dancing. It's almost identical to a Cuban, save for the bread. Cubans use a lean sandwich loaf; the medianoche calls for a sweet egg bread that's similar to challah. The extra richness settles the stomach just a bit more, and it develops a wonderful crust when you toast it.
As in a Cuban, the tang of the mustard and the crunch of the pickles perfectly balances the roast pork and thinly sliced ham. The sweet, soft bread threw me off at first, but I found it to be incredibly satisfying. We may not have been eating these after a long night of dancing, but a day-long food crawl can work up an appetite, too.
Now back in New York City, I've been able to recreate my favorite Miami flavors here at home. You can't really get much simpler than this for a weeknight meal; the entire point of the sandwich is that it's something quick to make after hours in your home kitchen, and the hardest part is roasting some pork. My suggestion? Plan ahead and roast pork early in the week, so that when you get home from a long day at work (or a night on the town), you can throw one of these bad boys together in no time at all.
Get the recipe for Medianoche »