It's a very particular kind of morning we're talking about when we say this is the Cuban sandwich you want for breakfast — specifically the kind that starts closer to noon than it does to nine, and one where the night before might've included lots of dancing. That, or those mornings when you wake up ravenous and ready for something truly hearty to eat.
The Cuban medianoche is a close sibling to the more famous cubano. With an identical filling — Swiss cheese, pork, ham, pickles, and sharp yellow mustard — the one distinguishing element here is the bread. Often called pan medianoche or pan sauve, this bread is smaller, richer, eggier, and usually sweeter than the crusty, baguette-like bread used for cubanos. I think it makes for an all-around tastier sandwich, but then I really don't care for bread that scratches up the roof of your mouth with every bite.
With its origins in Havana and a legacy solidified by the numerous shops, stores, and restaurants that offer it day, noon, and night throughout Cuban communities in the States, the medianoche is really the sandwich to sink your teeth into when you want to do breakfast Cuban-style.
A word to the wise — this isn't exactly a sandwich you can eat the moment the craving hits you since the recipe does include roasting a pork loin. So plan ahead on behalf of your future self for this sandwich — it will only run you an hour or so. The good news, however, is that roasting the pork loin is the most time-intensive part, rewarding you and five other hungry guests with delicious sandwiches once it's made.
Like the cubano, this sandwich is brushed with butter and griddled to finish. A panini press makes that pretty easy, but if you're without one, a foiled-covered brick and a cast iron pan does the job just as well.
Cuban Medianoche Sandwiches
For the pork:
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the sandwiches:
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
8 ounces thinly sliced Swiss cheese
9 ounces sliced dill pickles
12 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Cook the pork: Arrange rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
Combine the salt, garlic powder, cumin, and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle all over the pork. Heat the oil in a large oven-safe skillet on medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the pork loin and sear on all 4 sides until golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the internal temperature registers 155°F, 30 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool completely, about 45 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, or as thin as possible.
Make the sandwiches: Heat a panini press or a large cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Meanwhile, assemble the sandwiches.
Split the buns in half, making sure to not cut the whole way through. Spread the mustard on the cut side of the top halves of the buns. Top the mustard with the Swiss cheese, pickles, and ham. Divide the pork among the bottom buns. Close the buns and spread the butter on the outsides of the buns, spreading on both top and bottom.
For a panini press: Place the sandwiches in the heated panini press, working in batches if needed, and close. Press until golden-brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes.
For the stovetop method: Place the sandwiches in the heated cast iron skillet, working in batches if needed. Weigh down the sandwiches with an aluminum foil-wrapped brick, or top with another cast iron skillet weighed down with a heavy can. Cook undisturbed until golden-brown on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the sandwiches and cook until the second side is browned, 3 to 5 minutes more.
Cut the sandwiches on the diagonal and serve.
- Make ahead: The pork loin can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Store-bought pork substitute: Sliced deli roast pork may be used instead of the roasted pork loin.
- Bread: Medianoche hoagie rolls are found at all Cuban bakeries and supermarkets, but brioche or other types of sandwich rolls can be used.
Recipe by Sara Martinez