If you're hosting a houseful this spring, shake it up a bit this year, leaving the big bone-in ham behind in favor of a platter of crisp, hearty and juicy Cuban sandwiches, in which cured and roasted pork belly stands in for pork shoulder. Bunk Sandwiches of Portland, Ore., whose co-owner Tommy Habetz is an alum of Mario Batali's and Bobby Flay's kitchens, shared this recipe, which Habetz described as, "the Buena Vista Social Club hosting a party in your mouth." You'll need to start the belly cure a few days ahead, and then roast the pork belly the day before, or very early the day of your gathering. Round out the table with cubed avocados, a salad of spring greens and toasted walnuts, and sliced fresh tropical fruits.
As for wine, Habetz suggests Oregon Pinot Noir. The wine's soft, refined tannins, subtle fruit and open structure won't overwhelm the delicate flavor of the cheese and ham, and those same qualities will help the wine play well with the pickles, mustard and hot sauce on the sandwiches. See below for a list of recently rated Oregon Pinots.
Bunk Sandwiches' Pork Belly Cubano
For the pork belly:
• 1 cup kosher salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
• 1 teaspoon each ground fennel seed, nutmeg, chile flakes
• 1 1/2 pound pork belly slab
• 1 tablespoon molasses
1. In a bowl, stir together the salt, sugar, garlic, fennel, nutmeg and chile flakes. Coat the pork belly with the mixture and rub it in gently. Wrap the belly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for three days.
2. Preheat the oven to 275° F.
3. Brush the excess spice mixture from the belly, then brush the belly with the molasses. Place in a roasting pan and roast for 3 to 4 hours, until tender. If the belly starts to get too dark, cover it in foil. Take it out of the oven and let it rest, then cut into 2-ounce slices.
For the sandwiches:
• 4 8-inch long French bread rolls, sliced lengthwise
• 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise
• 1 cup yellow mustard
• Mexican hot sauce to taste
• 8 slices Swiss or medium-sharp cheddar cheese
• Pork belly, from above
• 1/2 pound smoked ham, thinly sliced
• 4 kosher dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. Spread the mayonnaise on one side of each bread roll. Spread the mustard liberally over both sides. Season the bread with hot sauce to taste. Divide the cheese slices among the bread rolls. Add a few slices of pork belly to each sandwich. Add the ham and pickles, then close each sandwich and brush melted butter on the outside of each roll.
2. Heat a panini press or griddle. Add the sandwiches to the press and cook over moderate heat until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve. Serves 4 to 6.
RECOMMENDED OREGON PINOT NOIRS
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.