Miami's sunny landscape is dotted with palm trees and just as many Cuban cafés like La Carreta, Oasis, and Versailles. These are establishments where you can have a seated meal, but what's more charming is the invitation to walk up to an outdoor counter and order a quick breakfast of café con leche and tostadas, an afternoon caffeine lightning bolt of concentrated cortadito or café cubano, and late at night, a medianoche sandwich.
This habit of eating on your feet among a friendly crowd, where everyone seems to know each other, and melodious Spanish is spoken almost exclusively, has its roots in Havana. Cubans who fled to Miami brought with them their unmistakable accent, their food, and their gregarious eating customs.
I've heard that after a long night of dancing, people would stop for a medianoche, so named as an allusion to the time it was often eaten. At midnight. The pressed, toasted sandwich is made with pan suave, a sweet egg bread similar to challah or Hawaiian bread. The filling is lechón, slow-cooked marinated pork, ham, cheese, pickles, butter and mustard.
Sweet, salty, and deeply satisfying, it's a sandwich you'll crave at all times of the day.
For this recipe, I took a slight shortcut, given that I don't have a whole pig on hand. Quick-cooking pork tenderloin is marinated with mojo, a mixture of orange juice, lime juice, lots of garlic, oregano, and a dash of cumin, then roasted. Make sure to press the sandwich either with a spatula or panini press to for the signature compact, crisp look.
Medianoches are usually made with "pan suave," a soft, sweet bread. Since it is not widely available, I've substituted it with 6 inch-long challah rolls, which are sweet and soft like the original.
- Yield:Makes 4 sandwiches
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:1 hour
- For the Pork:
- 1 (3/4 pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin and excess fat
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons juice from 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon juice from 1 to 2 limes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- For the Sandwiches:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 4 sweet rolls (see note), split in half lengthwise
- 8 slices deli ham
- 32 dill or bread-and-butter pickle chips
- 8 thin slices Swiss cheese
For the Pork: Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Poke pork tenderloin all over with knife. Season with salt and pepper. Place pork on prepared baking sheet.
Place garlic and olive oil in small bowl or teacup; oil should completely cover garlic. Microwave 45 seconds. Transfer to medium bowl and whisk in orange juice, lime juice, oregano, and cumin.
Pour garlic mixture over pork tenderloin, rubbing into perforations. Roast until temperature reads 145°F on instant-read thermometer, about 15 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Pork may be prepared one day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Thinly slice pork.
For the Sandwiches: Combine 2 tablespoons butter and mustard in small bowl. Spread the cut sides of the rolls evenly with butter-mustard mixture.
Top roll bottoms with a layer of pork, 2 slices ham, 8 pickle chips, 2 slices cheese, and roll tops. Spread exterior of rolls with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
Cook sandwiches over medium heat, pressing down with spatula, until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes per side. Alternatively, heat panini press according to manufacturer’s instructions and cook sandwiches until crisp and golden.
Allow sandwiches to set about 2 minutes, then serve.