Pan con lechon is a staple meal to eat here in Miami. Pan con lechon, which literally translates to bread with pork, is the Cuban version of a pulled pork sandwich that can be prepared at home after having leftover roast pork. As a Miamian, I am aware that the largest influx of homemade pan con lechones are made the afternoons after holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
Essentially, it is a pressed sandwich made of roasted pork, onions, and mojo on heavily buttered Cuban bread. But the deep-seated question that has echoed over time has been, why is this particular sandwich so popular?
My personal opinion is the simplicity, yet savory, recipe this dish has to offer. This sandwich has only four components; but each of these ingredients forms a harmonic constitution.
Let’s start with the bread: a typical Cuban bread is made with lard, which is what makes it particular. It has a hard, thin, toasted crust and a soft middle. In the early days, the dough was stretched thinly to make it last. It is also known that Cuban bread becomes very stale after 24 hours of baking, and can be very useful as a weapon for self-defense. The bread in this sandwich is cut lengthwise, and is buttered on both sides before pressing it.
Roast pork is the main ingredient to pan con lechon. There are many ways in which the pork itself is cooked; either baked or barbecued. If you want to take the easy way out, I suggest just putting the pork shoulder in the oven. But if you want to go all out, you can get a whole young pig and roast it over the grill for about two hours. The dressing rubbed on the pork before cooking it is usually one head of garlic, orange juice, lime juice, cumin, and oregano. Needless to say, the end result will be a very pungent, yet savory roasted pork. Once cooked, shred the pork and keep it warm when making the sandwich.
The next important factor to a pan con lechon is the mojo sauce. Now, if you thought that the pork dressing was tangy, mojo takes the cake. Mojo is similar to the roast pork marinade, except olive oil is added to the mix to use as a sauce. The mojo is then poured directly over the pork when composing the sandwich. Make sure to ask for extra mojo sauce in case the cuban bread absorbs it all. The onions used in this sandwich are just simple yellow onions that are lightly sauteed, or at times, raw.
Once all the ingredients are assembled, put it on a sandwich press and leave till the sandwich has reduced to half it’s size. Also, don’t forget your gum.
By Miami Food Blogger: Caroline Shalabi