November 23, 2014

TestGiving 5.0: A Buttery Delight

We recently celebrated our fifth annual TestGiving.  If you’re unfamiliar with TestGiving, it’s a day when we cook a complete Thanksgiving Dinner with turkey and all the fixings; sort of dress rehearsal for the All American Feast!  Basically, it’s another good excuse to eat more turkey.  As usual, I’m in charge of the Turkey. I’m too much of an ego maniac to let the responsibility fall to anyone else.  Anyway, I wanted to try something new this year, because testing new recipes is what TestGiving is all about.

Butter Smoked TestGiving Turkey
For the past couple of years I have made the Bacon Wrapped Turkey.  While it is absolutely delicious, it was time for something new and possibly better.  I know you’re saying "what on earth is better than bacon"!?!?!  Well, it starts with a B, rhymes with clutter...thats right BUTTER!  And not just any butter...smoked butter!  I got the idea from another BBQ Guru of mine, Ted Reader. I watched his video a few weeks ago when I was doing some R&D and decided that was going to be my TestGiving Turkey.

As usual this turkey started with a brining.  I made a little change in my brine this year and substituted white grape juice for the apple cider.  I really like the white grape juice because it has an even lighter flavor than apple juice that goes well with poultry. The brine consisted of 1 gallon of white grape juice, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of kosher salt. I mixed the brine in my bucket, dropped in the turkey, placed the bucket in the fridge and let it sit for 24 hours.

Note:  Frozen turkeys have a salt solution in the bag. After the turkey has defrosted I will soak it in water overnight to remove this solution before I brine. This step will keep the turkey from being too salty. Start defrosting your bird a day earlier to give yourself plenty of time.

 
Turkey with Casa Seasoning
To prep the turkey for cooking I removed the turkey from the brine and patted it dry.  I coated the turkey with olive oil to help the rub adhere to the skin.  Then I gave the turkey a generous dusting of Casa Seasoning.  I just wanted to keep it simple so the rub was not competing with the smoked butter.

I smoked the turkey using a mix of Kingsford Competition Briquettes and cherry wood chunks.  I like the cherry wood because it has a light sweet flavor that is subtle and not overpowering.  I smoked the turkey at 275º for about four hours.  Rule of Thumb for smoking turkeys is 15-20 minutes per pound.

After the turkey had cooked for about an hour I placed a pan with four sticks of butter in the smoker to melt.  I pushed my charcoal and wood chunks around a little bit to get some smoke going to flavor the butter while it melted, about 30 minutes.

Injecting Smoked Butter into the Turkey
Once the butter was melted I pulled the pan of butter and turkey from the smoker.  I filled my injector with the smoky butter and proceeded to inject it into the bird.  Butter was injected into various spots around the breast.  I also injected some in the skin between the leg and breast.  After the turkey was pumped up with butter I brushed it down with what else?  A little more butter and returned it to the smoker.  I still had quite a bit of butter left, so I continued to baste the turkey with the remaining butter every 30 minutes until the turkey was done.

Basting with more of the smoked butter
After 4 hours of smoking and butter basting it was time for the moment of truth. As I sliced the turkey I could see the butter just ooze from the meat.  I cut off a nice piece for my taste test and it was really good!  The meat was moist and juicy with an amazing buttery smoky flavor.  The skin was even better, it had more pronounced smoke flavor with a buttery finish.  Of course it was absolutely fantastic with all the fixings. 

TestGiving is Served!
The rest of Team AlbuKirky agreed ,it was a pretty tasty bird.  They were on the fence if it was better than the bacon wrapped turkey, but it was just as good.  They did agree that they would need a side-by-side taste test to be sure.  I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, but there is a possibility of a bacon wrapped smoked butter injected turkey in the future.

November 14, 2014

Oooo Mommy!

A few weeks ago Mrs. AlbuKirky and I were dining at Sakura Sushi & Grill.  We usually order sushi, but sushi is more of summer food and we just weren’t feeling it, so we decided to order something off grill side of the menu.  Cheryl had the Bibimbap in a Stone Bowl while I had the Kalbi Beef Ribs.  After eating our salad and meso soup waiter returns and set this huge plate ribs in front of me, and of course being the gluten that I am, I devoured the whole freaking thing.  The ribs had a rich beef flavor that was slightly sweet, but it was the umami flavor that totally fascinated me.  Umami is one of those flavors that not easy to explain but you know it when you taste it and it tasted really good. I knew after that first bite I was going to have to try to make these at home.

Kalbi Beef Ribs at Sakura Sushi & Grill
I have made Korean BBQ Ribs before using a store bought Bulgogi sauce.  But I wasn’t going to take the easy way out and buy a sauce, I was going to put on my big boy pants and make my own.  So I took to the internet to find a recipe.  I started looking for a Kabli marinade but I then I ran across a recipe for Galbi Beef at CrazyKoreanCooking.com.  These ladies have a great site, I really liked their little recipe app that updates as the servings change.  Anyway, the Galbi marinade sounded really interesting, like a cross between the Kalbi and Bulgogi recipes.  I really want to try their recipe for traditional Galbi Beef Rib, they use the regular cut of beef short rib and then did some fancy knife cuts to make it all pretty.  

Korean BBQ Ribs

3.5 – 4lbs of Cross Cut Beef Short Ribs
1 – Asian Pear
2 Tbs – Rice Wine

For this recipe I used a cross cut beef short rib. I laid out all the ribs and cut shallow cross cuts on both sides, I did this to rough of the rib a little bit so the marinade would permeate the meat and adhere to the surface a little better

Cross cutting the ribs
I grated the Asian pear and added the rice wine.  Then I rubbed the ribs down with the pear on both sides



Galbi Marinade
Galbi Marinde
½ Cup – Soy Sauce
6 Tbs – Sugar
¼ Cup – Sesame Oil
2 Tbs – Garlic Minced
½ Tsp – Black Pepper
2 – Green Onion, chopped

I placed one layer of ribs down in a pan and then poured the marinade over the ribs.  I flipped the ribs and really worked the marinade into the meat.  I kept building the layers of meat and marinade until I had used it all.  Oh, be sure to set aside some of the marinade to serve with ribs.

Marinating ribs 
I placed the pan of ribs in the fridge to marinate overnight. Well, I couldn’t cook the ribs the following night because it was raining.  It was one of those rare occasions that it actually rained in NM.  Which probably turned out to be a good thing because it gave the marinade another 24 hours to do its thing. So I flipped the ribs around in the marinade and let them sit in the fridge for another day.

Grilling the Ribs
Since I had so much flavor invested in my sauce I decided to cook these on my Weber gas grill.  There was also a good bit of sugar in the marinade and I didn't want to burn it so I heated up the grill to a med heat about 400-450.  I filled the grate with the ribs and left the lip up while I was grilling.  I cooked the ribs for about 3 minutes, flipped, and brushed the hot side with some of the marinade.  I repeated the flipping and marinade until the ribs had a light char and the dark color I was looking for.  Total cook time was 12-15 minutes. 


Korean BBQ Ribs
Once the ribs were all cooked I served them with a garnish chopped pine nuts, green onions and a drizzling of the sauce. Now it was time for the moment of truth, eating!  UMAMI these ribs were good! They were sweet and savory with just a hint of the onion.  Crosshatching the ribs had allowed the marinade to really penetrate the meat so each bit was just packed with flavors.  What was really nice was the light sweet crunch of the pine nuts every so often.  The only problem with these ribs, they were too good, we ate the entire plate. I hope you all give these ribs a try for yourself, they are absolutely delicious.  Maybe my next Asian inspired dish will be the Bibimbap Bow?!


October 30, 2014

Diet Coke: Tasty Beverage or Grill Cleaner???

Last week, while I was doing some much needed maintenance on my Big Green Egg. I opened up my Egg to find a gnarly, crusty drip pan I had forgotten about. A few days earlier, I had cooked a brisket and during my caveman-like consumption of that delicious lump of smoked meat, I must have forgotten to go back and clean out the pan. Having come out of my smoke induced haze, I assessed the situation and determined that this was no job for mere mortal cleansers or elbow grease.  No, this grease was much tougher.  Though this pan is fairly nasty, it's not quite as bad as when I smoke a pork butt.  There is a lot of sugar in my pork rub so imagine what sugar will do when left to cook in a pan over several hours.  Pork butt, brisket...either way it's a real bitch to clean up.



I had recently read an article about the evils of soda.  I'm sure you're familiar with it as it's probably the same article that's been floating around the Internet for the last several years.  In it, it lists all the things soda will do, like dissolve a tooth, tenderize meat or eat a hole in your stomach.  Years ago I remember pouring it over my car battery to clean off the corroded battery terminals.  Worked like a champ.  This gave me an idea on how to tackle that nasty drip pan without requiring a chisel and mallet. 



My experiment began with a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke leftover from a recent soiree. I filled the pan with the carbonous (made up word? perhaps) elixir and let it sit and bubble for about an hour.  The evil cola was left alone to work its dark effervescent magic.  



After an hour, I dumped the cola and rinsed out the pan with cold water.  There was still a little bit of residue left so I gave it a light scrubbing with some stainless steel wool.  It didn't take much effort to get the pan clean.



After the light scrubbing, I rinsed the pan with cold water again and dried it with a paper towel.  Low and behold, that bubbly Quencher of Thirsts did all the hard work for me!


Alright, it's not as good as new, but it's pretty damn clean.  I was amazed at how easily the pan cleaned up.  I don't know if it's the carbonation in the coke or all the other crap that I cannot pronounce, but it did a great job. This should probably be enough proof for me to stop drinking sodas, but if I quit I won't have any soda around to clean my grill.  As for if it will dissolve a tooth, I have made an executive safety decision to not walk around with a mouthful of coke for days at a time.  I pledge to immediately swallow all of its fizzy deliciousness as soon as it hits my lips and I suggest you do the same.

October 17, 2014

Egg-ccessories: The Cast Iron Plate Setter

Like most BBQ guys, people are always giving me grilling tools that I never use.  I have a box in my garage that is full of unused grill toys. I admit I am a bit of snob when it comes to gadgets, but if it doesn't make cooking easier or improve the flavor of my food, it's just a waste of my time.  Besides, grilling and smoking meat is pretty easy; you don't need to be bogged down with tools and gadgets.  Back in May, I did receive a birthday gift that is truly great...a cast iron plate setter for my Big Green Egg.  You have probably noticed it in my posts throughout the summer, and I gotta tell you, it's freaking awesome!


Big Pork Chops!
For the non-Eggheads, the platesetter is used to set up the BGE for indirect cooking.  You place it between the fire and the grate and it deflects the heat around the meat you're cooking.  The stock plate setters are ceramic and tend to crack and break over time.  I've been through three of them since I've had my egg and they are about $60 each.

What I like about the cast iron plate setter is that it's a lot more durable than the ceramic.  But what I really love about it is the grilling grate on the bottom.  I just flip it over and I've got an excellent cooking surface, I get the benefits of cast iron and all the flavor of cooking over charcoal.  


Searing Pork Belly before braising
I have yet to use this plate setter for slow cooking, because if I flip it over all over, my seasoning will burn off.  This summer I have used the grill side to cook just about everything...steaks and pork chops, braised pork belly, even roasted pepper and onions, and heated tortillas.  


Grilling some pepper & onions
I've always had issues with flare ups when cooking rib eyes, but on the plate setter the fat drips off the side or stays in the grate troughs. And when it does flame up, the fire is deflected around the plate setter and doesn't scorch the precious steak.

Cooking Rib Eyes
The heat distribution is excellent.  It gets really hot and puts a great sear on a steak.

One Hot Cooking Surface!
The cast iron plate setter is a bit pricey, Tasty Licks BBQ has them at $119 for a large BGE. Tasty Licks is also selling them through Amazon for $130.  That is about the price of two ceramic plate setters.  It may be expensive, but it's definitely worth it.  With Christmas just around the corner this is a gift any Egghead would love.

Disclaimer:  I'm not receiving any compensation for my endorsement of this product.  Not that my endorsement carries a lot of weight.  I just really like the product and wish to share my experience with other Egghead and Komodo guys who might appreciate it.

October 3, 2014

We Came, We Saw, We Fried Some Fritters!

Saturday was the Big Disc-It Round Up and Team AlbuKirky went in with high expectations.  Considering we got our butt's kicked last year, we were still optimistic the fans and judges would appreciate our latest Disc-It dish.  Since our crushing defeat last year, we have been brain storming ideas and testing new recipes that would return our team to championship glory.  After months of testing, we finally came up with the Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Corn Fritter with Honey Butter.

I got my big hat on, I'm ready to cook!
At high noon on Saturday we fired up our Disc-Its and began serving up our latest culinary creation to the hungry crowds and judges.  After 4 solid hours of batter mixing, fritter frying and serving, we were spent.  When all was said and done, we had served about 900 of our delicious fritters.  The crowds seemed to really enjoy the fritters and many of them came back for seconds and thirds.  It was tough to get a read on the judges though. They had put on their poker faces or hid behind their score pads so as not to give any indications of their like or dislike of our dish.  All we could do was wait for the scores to be tallied and winners announced. 

Frying up some bacon in Sean's Game of Thrones Disc-It
Finally, the dust had settled and it was time to announce the winners. We won judges categories for Most Unique Dish and Best Booth Design. AND (drumroll, please) we also won the Grand Prize Judges Choice Award. Whooohoo! Team AlbuKirky was back to our winning ways.

An exhausted Team AlbuKirky
After cooking all those fritters we were exhausted, but in a good way. This event is one of our favorites because it's more that just a cooking contest, it's about raising money for the kids of UNM Children's Hospital.  The Disc-It Round Up is a passion project for Nevin and the entire Montano family and they have really made it a special event.  We can't wait to do it all over again next year!  Thanks to everyone who came out and showed your support.



Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Corn Fritters
Fritters

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 cup canned corn (drained)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked diced bacon (10-12 slices)
2 jalapeños diced (seeds removed)

Honey Butter

4 tablespoons butter (softened)
1/2 cup honey

In a bowl combine all of the dry ingredients for the fritters.  Next, add the milk, eggs and butter, stir until just combined.  Stir in the corn, cheese, bacon and jalapeños. In a Disc-It or large dutch oven, heat oil to 370º.  Drop in the fritters using two teaspoons to scrape the batter into a ball.  Fry 3-4 minutes or until fritters are golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel.  In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and honey.  Serve fritters and honey butter immediately.  Enjoy!  




September 22, 2014

Green Chile Jelly

Ahhhhh!  Do you smell that?  It's September in New Mexico and every square inch of airspace above the state is filled with the smoky, spicy, almost verdant aroma of roasting green chile.  The locals are very familiar with this intoxicating scent and willingly submit to the pavlovian response sure to follow.  Practically every grocer, big or small, has a chile roaster or two set up in the parking lot and the farmer's markets are alive with them, too.  You'll even find the occasional rogue chile vender on the side of the road, like a mystical food gypsy, silently whispering promises that his chile will cure what ails you.  And he would be correct, too.  Green chile is rich in vitamins A and C, and a good source of vitamins B and E.  It also contains iron and potassium, so how could you go wrong by adding this superfood to your daily diet?

It stands to reason that when those tumblers start tumbling and the air fills with that rich aroma, the locals come running.  We have a tendency to hoard our green chile in an effort to make it last until the following season, so you'll see us buying it by the bushels and sacks.  The elitists will look for the signs marked "Hatch", indicating the city in New Mexico that undoubtedly offers the best of this spicy "fruit", but there are other farms 'round these parts that do it pretty darn well, too.  This year we opted to buy ours from Wagner's Farms and picked up 1/2 bushels of Big Jims (medium heat) and Sandias (hot heat).  Both had amazing green chile flavor that teased the tongue, but the Sandias had a nice slow burn that intensified long after being swallowed.

There are lots of ways to use these lovely green beauties, but one of my favorites is Green Chile Jelly.  My sister, Patricia (from here forward she'll be referred to as Trissi as it is hard to shake a nickname given to you as a baby even if you are a 36 year old woman, no matter how much you try), has honed this recipe to a fine science and recently our friend Shay had us over to her house so that we could spend the day basking in Trissi's preserving knowledge.

I took lots of pics with my iPhone, but forgot my regular camera, sorry about that.  I realize the quality of these could be a bit better.  Scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe and detailed instructions.

A 1/2 bushel of Big Jims tumbling out of the roaster.

A couple of key tools...a large pot with a rack for sterilizing and processing jars, and a heavy bottomed pot for cooking down the ingredients.  This 8 quart Kilner Jam Pan is a pricey investment, but will yield plenty of return if used frequently.  Inside measurements, a pour spout, and tall sides that keep boiling lava hot fruit from popping all over makes it stand out when compared to the common kitchen pan.  



 

Into the pan with diced roasted green chile that have been thoroughly cleaned and seeded, plus vinegar, lemon juice, organic sugar, salt and red chile powder.  


Ahhh, behold that beautiful warm hue beckoning to be shared with a bit of cream cheese on a cracker.
Green Chile Jelly

Makes three pints or six 1/2 pint jars of jelly

1 lb fresh roasted green chiles (skinned, seeded and diced) 
5 cups organic sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried red chile
1  3 oz. package Certo brand liquid pectin

A few words regarding the ingredients:  Trissi likes the taste and set that the organic sugar gives the jelly.  You can find it at Costco reasonably priced.  Bottled lemon juice is fine for this recipe.  In fact, its acidity is more consistent than that of fresh lemons, which is important for making jams and jellies. Certo is the liquid pectin brand of choice here.  Again, it provides a quality set and that's a good thing.  One more thing, we made double batches of green chile jelly by doubling this recipe, so the pics might look off as far as the ingredients are concerned.      

A few words about processing:  For an endless playground of information regarding putting up jams, jellies, etc. visit Marisa McClellan's website, Food in Jars or pick up one of the two books that she has out on canning and preserving, Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint.  The site and books are excellent resources and she provides a laundry list of other resources around the web.

Let's get started...    

Directions:

Sterilize your jars by placing them on the rack in the canner and then filling it with water until it covers the jars.  Bring it to a rolling boil and then let it boil for a minimum of 15 minutes.  We actually let it boil until we are ready to fill the jars.  The jelly cooks quickly, so make sure your canner has been boiling a good bit before you put the pan with the jelly ingredients on the stove.  

Place the lids and rings in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  DO NOT boil.  You're just going to keep them warm until you're ready for them.  Jarden, the maker of Ball canning supplies has come out with a new recommendation on this step and you can read about it here.  We elect to continue to simmer and warm them like we usually do, because the USDA has not changed their recommendation on the process, so we'll stick with what's tried and true.

In a large heavy bottomed pan add your diced green chiles, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and dried red chile.  Stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.  Cook over medium heat stirring frequently to prevent the sugar from burning.  

Snip the top of your pectin package off and place the package upright in a large cup so that it is ready to quickly add to your jelly pan.  

Bring your jelly to a rolling boil, quickly add your pectin, squeezing out as much as possible, and stir immediately for one minute.  Remove from the heat.  Quickly skim off any foam.  

Using tongs or a jar lifter, remove your jars from the canner dumping the boiling water back into the pot. Don't worry about any water droplets left inside the jars, they will quickly evaporate.  Place them upright on a towel.

Using a canning funnel and a ladle, begin to fill the jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.  

Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth then place the lids on them.  Add the rings until just "fingertip" tight.  This means twisting the lid on with only your fingertips and stopping once it begins to tighten.  DO NOT over-tighten the rings.  The lids are tight enough to prevent spillage, but not so tight to prevent air from escaping during processing.

Using the jar lifter, place the jars back into the hot water in the canner.  Bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes, but add an additional minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level.  In Albuquerque, we are 5,000 feet above sea level so we processed our jars for 15 minutes.  

Using the jar lifter, remove the jars to a flat surface and allow them to sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours.  You're sure to hear the musical "ping" of your jars sealing, a reward well earned for all your hard work.    


******************

We had a great day making green chile jelly and because we had three sets of hands helping out, all of the tasks went quickly and clean up was a cinch.  Plus everyone walked away with enough jelly to give as gifts and enjoy at home, as well.  

What are my plans for my stash?  I'll serve it at my next party spread over a soft brick of cream cheese and served alongside some seedy artisanal crackers, then I'll stand back and wait for the "oohs" and ahhs" to start rolling in.  We'll also probably use a jar to glaze a few racks of pork ribs seasoned with some of Kirk's AlbuKirky Seasonings Green Chile Rub.  A dynamic flavor duo guaranteed to send folks back for seconds and thirds.  And, of course, there will be plenty to pair with a warm loaf of homemade bread. 

This recipe is delicious and simple, and probably one of THE BEST ways to preserve one of the most exquisite flavors of the season.  Give it a spin!

September 20, 2014

6th Annual Disc-It Round Up!

It's time for the Disc-it Round Up! Team AlbuKirky has been working hard on our winning recipe but we still need the secret ingredient. And that secret ingredient is YOU!  So come on down to Isleta Casino on Saturday Sept 27th and help us raise a ton of cash for UNM Children's Hospital. Once you are in the gates you can help yourself the worlds largest Disc-It Buffet.  Over 50 teams will be cooking up their culinary creations and vying for your vote for best dish. 

Advance tickets are $15, and $20 at the gate, Kids 13 and under free,  Round Up Tickets.

You can also purchase tickets direct from Team AlbuKirky, just come on down our our booth at the RailYards Market on Sunday Sept 21 from 9-3 and receive a FREE Bottle of our Casa Seasoning with your ticket purchase. 

We'll see you at the Round Up!!






September 13, 2014

Happy Belated National Hotdog Day!

I'm back, my hiatus is over.  I have been busy trying to build my BBQ Empire and things are going well.  Let me say, it’s a long way to the top if you want to barbecue!  This summer our weekends have been filled with store demos and markets, but we still manage to find time to cook up some great grub, it's finding the time to blog about that is difficult.  So, I'm a little late with my National Hotdog Day post, but it's the thought that counts right?  Besides who needs a national day to enjoy a delicious hotdog?

Happy Belated National Hot Dog Day!
National Hotdog Day was back in July and we had a little party to celebrate.  And true to our form we made the best hotdogs we could.  Great hotdogs start with quality franks with a natural casing, fresh baked buns and homemade toppings and of course some bacon. Even when it comes to hotdogs we don't mess around at the AlbuKirky Kitchens.

When I cook hotdogs I like to cut a cross in the end of the franks.  It’s a little trick I saw on Amazing Ribs and have been using it ever since.  The cross cut allows the ends to crisp up a bit, it's very tasty, although they do kind of look like the giant worms from the movie Dune.

I cooked a few of the dogs on the grill.  I started by laying them down in the grates and as the dogs cook I roll them across the grill.  It gets them really brown and really maxes out the flavor.


As for the other dogs I got a little stupid.  I wrapped them with a thick slice of bacon and deep fried them in the Disc-It.  Yah, it was stupid all right, stupid delicious!!


We started our hotdogs with the fresh homemade buns, baked by my lovely wife Cheryl.  For my first dog I took the bacon wrapped dog and topped it with fried onion strings and topped it with a little AlbuKirky Seasonings BBQ Sauce.  The other dog was a chile cheese topped with Cheryl’s homemade chili, onions and good old French’s Yellow Mustard.

Chili Cheese Dog & Bacon Dog with Onion Strings
Cheryl decided to for go the bacon dog for a classic sauerkraut dog with yellow mustard.  And of course the sauerkraut was homemade by her sister Patricia.

The Classic Kraut Dog
When it was all said and done these were the best hot dog we've ever made. I don't know how we're going to top this next year but we'll try.  And maybe next year I'll get it posted on time.

August 30, 2014

Let's make a Cubano Sandwich!

Well, this Cubano Sandwich Trilogy has certainly taken a long time to produce.  I shouldn't feel too bad, though, The Godfather Trilogy took 18 years to complete.  The first two installments are considered to be 2 of the Greatest Movies ever made as documented on many lists found on the Internet (and the Internet would NEVER lie to us), however, Kirk reminded me that the third one was a piece of shit.  Let's hope this post fairs better.

To bring this story to a close, I'm going to wind down with the bread recipe and how we put this sandwich together.  Just like any reasonably decent trilogy closer, we're going to answer all of your questions and tie up the lose ends.

Let's start with the sandwich rolls...


I found this roll recipe on King Arthur Flour's website here and it really makes up a nice hoagie type roll.  This is one to keep in the sandwich making arsenal, for sure.  The picture above shows the rolls after they were shaped and left to rise.  Looking pretty good!  I shaped each roll into a small batard using this video here as a reference.  I must have watched this video 20 times.  I used to think that rolling the dough into a log shape would do the trick, but I soon found out that correct shaping creates a nice tight gluten skin which greatly improves the appearance, rise,  and texture of the bread.  It makes a world of difference.      


A slash down the middle and into the oven they go!  It'll be cubano time before you know it!


Out of the oven, nice and golden.  These will make a cozy place for the ham, pork, and swiss to live happily ever after.   

Cubano Sandwich Rolls

4 Cups (17oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
4 Teaspoons sugar
2 Teaspoons salt
2 1/4 Teaspoons (one packet) active dry yeast
3 Tablespoons lard, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 Cups (10oz) warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast to 1/4 cup of the water (110º) and let it bloom for about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients including the remaining 1 cup of water and stir on low speed with the paddle attachment.  Once the dough starts to come together, switch to the dough hook and mix for approximately 5-8 minutes.  The dough should be soft and supple.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for approximately 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, use a bowl scraper and working inside the bowl, fold the top of the dough down towards the middle, then fold the bottom of the dough up towards the middle.  Next fold each of the sides toward the middle.  Turn the dough ball upside down in the bowl and let it rise an additional 30 minutes.  

Turn the dough out and divide it into 6 equal pieces.  I like to weigh the dough on a kitchen scale, divide by six, and then weigh out six pieces.  This ensures my sandwich rolls will be nice and uniform.  Cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.  Shape the logs into batards (see video link above) about 8 inches long.  Place shaped rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for an hour.  While the rolls are rising preheat the oven to 375º for 30 minutes.  

Slash each roll down the middle, spritz with water, and bake at 375º for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool before assembling your sandwiches.  

Let's assemble these bad boys...

The following is not so much a recipe as it is instructions for assembly, but you will need a few important ingredients:

Yellow Mustard
Thin-sliced Deli Ham
Swiss Cheese
Sliced Dill Pickles
And last, but not least, those fresh baked rolls you worked so hard on. 


Begin with plain yellow mustard on each side of the rolls to get the party started.  Next, add two slices of thin-sliced deli ham on the bottom half of each sandwich.  Top with some of that mouth-watering citrus infused shredded pork.  And finally, lay a couple of slices of swiss cheese on the very top.  I sliced this cheese from a block of cheese and in the next photo you'll see I got a little crazy and cut it way too thick.  Packaged sliced swiss is the better option.  Oh yeah, least I forget, a few sliced dills finish off this mountain of happiness.  I pickled these myself and was happy to crack open a jar for these sandwiches. 


They look pretty good as is, but think about how crispy and melty they're going to get after we press them.  


We decide to press these outside on our Disc-It using our flat disc.  We brushed down the surface generously with melted butter and did the same to the tops of the sandwiches.  Sounds excessive, but the melted butter adds so much flavor, it would be a crime to skip it and this girl is not one to break the law.


A hot cast iron griddle and two foil wrapped bricks provides the perfect weights to give these sandwiches a good squeeze.  Think thin, you two!


No words needed.  I think you can form your own opinion from this pic.


Cut on the diagonal to expose a cross view of those tasty meats and cheese.  If only I had sliced that swiss thinner, these would have exceeded perfection.  Next time, no doubt.  Serve alongside twice fried plantains and you've got yourself a comforting platter of Cuban flavors guaranteed to kick hunger to the curb.