“My name is (what?), my name is (who?), my name is…”

by Katie Pizzuto on October 6, 2010

in Cooking,Recipes

I realize this topic polarizes people, but at this point I’ve realized I’m too set in my ways to ever see the other side of the argument no matter how open minded I allow myself to be. I have argued more than once that a classic recipe is a classic recipe and if you are going to fuck with it, that’s great…that’s creative…but just don’t call it by its original name. If a salad contains anything other than fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and salt/pepper, it is NOT a caprese salad any more than apple-flavored vodka served in a martini glass is a martini. This particularly gets my panties in a bunch when the recipe referenced is a Cuban Sandwich.

I’ll be the first to admit that I got sucked into watching the Next Iron Chef because someone whose cooking I greatly admire and whose cookbook I’ve reviewed (Marco Canora of NYC’s Hearth and Terroir) is competing. It wasn’t long before I started screaming at the television with indignance, my string of expletives aimed at Chef Celina Tio and her Breakfast Cuban Sandwich. The challenge was for each of the chefs to show off their ingenuity in the form of a sandwich, and while I’m not a complete dolt and I understand that ingenuity at its core embraces inventiveness, at what point is the line drawn? If it no longer even quacks, is it still a damned duck?!?

A Cuban Sandwich has always been and will always be a combination of smoked ham, swiss cheese, roast pork, mustard and thinly sliced pickles on Cuban bread. The Cuban is a grilled/pressed sandwich and the secret is not only the roast pork—traditionally a Boston butt marinated in mojo and slow roasted for several hours—but also the uniqueness of the Cuban bread, which is made with lard. Once the sandwich is assembled the outside of the bread is buttered and put in a sandwich press until the cheese is melted and heated through. Truly one of the great sandwiches of the world, and yeah, in case you’re asking, of course I’m biased. But if you ever find yourself in Miami or any other Cuban-centric neighborhood where you can get a sandwich you know is authentic, I’m sure it’ll get your mojo working, too.

But Chef Tio saw fit to make a “Breakfast Cuban Sandwich” which though it looked absolutely delicious, bore no resemblance to its namesake…NONE. ZIP. NADA. ZILCH. It was essentially an egg yolk set inside the center of a slice of brioche (like toad in a hole) with slab bacon, chorizo vinaigrette and housemade pickles. If the only shared ingredient is a fucking pickle exactly how does that qualify that as being inspired by the Cuban Sandwich? Cubans have dishes with chorizo, we just don’t call them Cuban Sandwiches. We’ve also got some with eggs, but they’ve got other names, too. I get it, guys, it’s her twist on the classic. But if she twists it until she has wrung out every last drop of the original, why bother referencing it?! I’m bored with it all at this point. Chef Tio is certainly not the only one serving up inspired cuisine that beckons the name of a classic dish if only to breed familiarity and nostalgia, and it’s insulting. Tell me what the dish contains and call it a day. But for the love of all that’s holy, don’t say it’s a play on a Cuban Sandwich and eviscerate all traces of what makes a Cuban Sandwich a Cuban Sandwich. As Homer would say, “Don’t toy with me, woman.”

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Don October 6, 2010



2 Coupe 60 October 7, 2010

Its funny, because this morning I made my son my own twist on this classic for lunch, I call it Chef Lou’s PB&J Cuban Sandwich. It consisted of Peanut Butter, Jelly, and two slices of white bread… But then and here is the part that allowed me to refer to it as a Cuban Sandwich….I pressed the slices of bread together really tight…and viola “Chef Lou’s PB&J Cuban Sandwich” was born…


3 Katie Pizzuto October 7, 2010

I really….REALLY REALLY….wanna know where the hell her head was at.


4 A Tuscan Foodie in America October 7, 2010

I couldn’t agree more with you.


5 kirk williamson October 7, 2010

Re: Katie Pizzuto’s comment on “the cuban”.
Oh, Katie, Katie, Katie………as I sit here eating my vegan reuben, I can’t help but recall my fond memories of my grandfather doing the traditional sandwich for us kids for lunch. We loved reubens and often wanted two. To this day, I still find myself hungering for the nastagia of those days. But life evolves, as does food, human ingenuity, and well……….my needing to go vegan. So, cover your eyes right now…………like the cuban, I’ve taken creative liberties with my favorite sandwich. No corn beef, no sourkraut, not even rye bread. I like my reubens with portabella mushrooms, kimchee, and vegan orange zext mayo, on a hearty dense german bread.
This sandwich brings me such elation that I could only have one bite and be in such a state of nirvana that no backward thinking culinary conservative could ever bring me down by even suggesting that I’m not eating a “real reuben”. All I have to say is my would be 108 year old grandfather from the old world would be proud that my current culinary leanings were inspired by him. Please, if you have issue with my reinvention…….take it up with him.


6 Katie Pizzuto October 7, 2010

As much as a departure as your sandwich is, I can still see a vague resemblance, especially given that it had to be vegan: the mushrooms taking the place of the meat, the kimchee’s crunchy tartness replacing the cabbage, and the orange zest mayo replacing the dressing. It kind of went tit for tat. I completely fail to see her train of thought in equating this with a Cuban sandwich….either the ingredients have to serve as inspiration or the overall experience has to serve as inspiration….she did neither. The sandwich is irrelevant to her dish, where I can EASILY see how the original reuben served as a basis for your sandwich.


7 The Wine Commonsewer October 11, 2010

Though I share your distress, the only time I ever forget my name is at the beach.


8 Katie Pizzuto October 11, 2010

There are a million ways I could go with this reply and I’m actually stuck because of it….like a fart in a fan shop.


9 Barbara | VinoLuciStyle October 12, 2010

Knowing firsthand your feelings about Carbonara, I thought of you this morning when a commentor made on another website shared that her carbonara had cream. I thought…Oh, my…she had better not butt heads with Katie!

Then I see this and though no expert on the Cuban sandwich, having never had one…I can so see where you are coming from. I mean if you change all but one ingredient does that duck still quack? I mean, could I call it German Chocolate cake if the only thing similar ingredient was flour!

You go girl!


10 Katie Pizzuto October 13, 2010

Precisely what I mean….if she had used pulled pork instead of roast pork and even different cheese, etc. FINE! The resemblance is still found. A pickle is hardly a reference point.


11 Coupe 60 October 14, 2010

Didn’t we used to get new content on this blog? Not even a mail it in photo for Wordless Wednesday? Hell, I think even Vaynerchuk throws up a new video once a week or so…


12 Katie Pizzuto October 14, 2010

Just posted….a day late is better than none at all. And actual content coming up shortly too 🙂


13 Katie Pizzuto October 14, 2010

Some of us actually care to put up quality content….geez, Lou 🙂


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