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If you live in the Portland area, you need to try Pambiche. Great Cuban food at reasonable prices and fabulous desserts as well. I don’t eat out often anymore, but when I do, I try to make it mean something. I prefer to support the local businesses as often as possible. No one makes a better Cuban sandwich than Pambiche (not a lot of Cuban competition around here) and they serve it with salty-sweet-crunchy tostones (fried plantain chips) and banana ketchup. But, I can’t always justify going out to eat, when I can replicate the results in a satisfactory manner at home.

I woke up a couple of days ago craving a Cuban sandwich slathered in yellow mustard and dripping melted swiss cheese. I tried to ignore the craving and decided to start my morning with homemade granola and a walk. I spent the morning walking the Springwater Corridor, but not surprisingly (I do live in Oregon, don’t I?), ended up getting rained out. Luckily, I found myself on Milwaukie Avenue by the QFC grocery store as raindrops pelted my ponytail. I decided to look around, and found a good selection of organic options. Well, for May in Oregon, anyway. I also found the Draper Valley chicken that I serve at work, but could not locate in local grocery stores. I felt satisfied with my purchases as I exited the store with a natural pork shoulder (very hard to source organic meats! Come on pig farmers!), a pack of organic ham, organic swiss cheese and some whole wheat buns. Oh, and a jar of pickles. Not organic, but cravings for Cuban sandwiches compare to cravings for chocolate or ice cream. Not easily ignored. A Cuban sandwich must include pickles! This summer I promise to can tons of my own kosher dill pickles, but until then, I find myself at the mercy of the grocery store shelf. I arrived home with my treasures, and immediately stuck the pork in the oven. Now, many fancy recipes for pulled pork exist, but when a Cuban sandwich craving strikes, I prefer to go the quick route. Cut the excess fat from the meat, rub it generously with kosher salt, throw some water in the pan and let it go.  Ok, so not the quickest route, as the pork takes about 3 to 4 hours in the oven. Most alternatives take longer though! Finally, several hours later, I sat down to enjoy my yummy, pork-stuffed creation. Worth every minute of preparation, and definitely satisfied my Cuban craving. Only problem, I woke up the next morning with my mouth watering for more salty ham, tender pork and tangy pickles stuffed in whole wheat bread. At least this time my refrigerator already held all the ingredients I needed! Maybe by the end of this week I will tire of the combination. Maybe.

Help! The pan of applesauce is crushing me!

Pulled Pork

1 piece of pork shoulder (mine was about 3-4 lbs)

kosher salt

water

Cut the excess fat from the meat, the more fat you remove, the leaner the pork will be. Rub generously with kosher salt and place in an oven-proof dish. Add about an inch of water, and cover with foil. Bake at 300 degrees for 3 to 4 hours, or until the pork easily shreds apart when touched. If you have to force the pork to shred, it has not cooked long enough. Remove the pork from the liquid immediately (be careful, it will be hot and should fall apart easily), and cool briefly. When cool enough to handle safely, shred with your hands or with two forks. (I prefer my clean hands, a chef’s best tool!) Refrigerate until completely cool (under 40 degrees) then cover and store in the refrigerator. If your pork shoulder is bigger, it will take longer to cook. A full-sized pork shoulder can take as long as 12 hours. Just pay attention to it and check it occasionally for tenderness.

Cuban Sandwich

Yields 1 sandwich

1 whole wheat hamburger bun or other whole wheat roll

2 thin slices of organic Swiss cheese

2 thin slices of organic ham

2 tbsp pulled pork

2 baby dill pickles, thinly sliced

organic yellow mustard

olive oil

Preheat a sauté pan over medium low heat. Spread both cut sides of the bun with yellow mustard. Add a slice of Swiss to each bun half, then a slice of ham. Top the bottom bun with the pork, and then the pickles. Add the top bun. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the preheated sauté pan. Add the sandwich, then top the sandwich with a piece of foil and something heavy to press it. (I used the pan of homemade applesauce I had cooling on the stove!) Cook for a couple of minutes, or until the bottom of the sandwich is golden brown. Make sure the heat isn’t too high, or the sandwich will burn. Keep an eye on it. Flip the sandwich, and repeat the process with the foil and heavy object. Cook until golden brown. Remove from the heat and serve.

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