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Cuban sandwiches: The best use for leftover pork shoulder we can think of

If you’re Latino like me, you know that pernil landed on the table of every festive event and holiday. At Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, birthday parties, even at baby showers, there was roasted pork shoulder. I never thought to ask why this was the protein of choice, and I think that even if I had, no one would know the answer. It was just something my mom did, her mom too and probably her mom before that — it just became a tradition that we all carried on, generation after generation.

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No matter how large the large or small the party was, though, we would always have leftover pernil. When you knew only 10 people were coming over, you would cook for 20 (I’m not sure if that’s just my family or yours too). If there was leftover pernil the next day, we would always make Cuban sandwiches. Grab a loaf of crusty bread, and slather some mustard on it with the pernil, cheese and, of course, more meat (ham). Top it off with pickles, and griddle the sandwich until nice and crisp, and you’ve got a hearty lunch option that’s truly irresistible.

Classic Cuban sandwich with roast pork shoulder recipe

Serves 4

Prep time: 1 hour 5 minutes | Cook time: 4 hours | Total time: 5 hours 5 minutes

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For the pork shoulder

  • 1 pound pork shoulder
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Juice and zest from 1 lime
  • Juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

For the sandwiches

  • 1 loaf Cuban-style or crusty French bread
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon or spicy brown mustard
  • Dill pickles
  • 1/2 pound ham
  • 1/2 pound Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 pound cooked pork shoulder


For the pork shoulder

  1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic cloves, orange juice, olive oil, lemon and lime (zest and juice). Season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper to taste, and rub the paste all over the pork shoulder. Let the pork shoulder marinate from 1 hour up to 24, refrigerated.
  2. Heat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  3. Cook the pork shoulder for 4 – 6 hours, until tender, juicy and cooked through. Once cool enough to handle, slice for Cuban sandwiches.

For the sandwiches

  1. Split the bread lengthwise, and spread the mustard on both sides. Add the dill pickles, ham, Swiss cheese and pork shoulder slices.
  2. To your greased sandwich griddle on medium heat, add the sandwich, and griddle until the cheese is melted and the bread is crisp.

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