The Cuban sandwich, often simply called a Cubano, is one of those delightful culinary surprises. How can a sandwich with such ostensibly simple ingredients boast such rich flavor? In a traditional Cubano, you will find just six ingredients: ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and bread. This twist on Binging with Babish’s Cubano features a lot more ingredients than that, but the recipe from chef and recipe developer Kristen Carli of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness lets you in on the secret: a Cubano tastes so good because of a twist where many flavors have already infused been into the meat.
"This recipe does have a lot of ingredients," Carli says. "However, I do think they all contribute to the delicious marinade." In other words, don’t leave any ingredients out. And definitely don’t rush the marinating processes. (Yes, there are two.)
You need to plan ahead on this one, as in up to 18 hours ahead or more. So if you’re looking to impress some friends with lunch tomorrow, get to work prepping these sandwiches tonight. Don’t worry, as most of that time is spent letting the ingredients do all the work. And the results are so well worth the wait that the first bite of this twist on Binging with Babish’s Cubano sandwich will have you agreeing it was time well spent.
Gather the ingredients
As noted, you need quite an extensive list of ingredients to prepare this ostensibly simple sandwich, what with how much goes into the marinade. So gather together a frozen turkey breast (thawed, of course, and look for a weight between 5.5 to 8.5 pounds), orange juice, water, rice wine vinegar, and a bit of spiced rum. You’ll also need kosher salt, divided, dark brown sugar, a whole head of garlic with its cloves peeled and crushed, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaves, olive oil, oranges, limes, chopped cilantro, mint leaves, pepper, and ground cumin. Finally, get a loaf of French bread, room temperature butter, about ½ pound of thick deli ham, sliced Swiss cheese, thinly sliced dill pickles, and mustard.
Still with us? Great, because procuring all that stuff was the hardest part!
Marinate the turkey overnight
To prepare the first round of marinade, combine the orange juice, water, rice wine vinegar, rum, ½ cup salt, brown sugar, garlic, two stems of the oregano, and the rosemary, thyme, sage, and bay leaves in a large bowl. Whisk to combine them all. Now place the turkey breast in a large bowl and pour that marinade on top. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the turkey, letting it marinate for at least 12 hours.
When that time is nearly up, make the mojo marinade. To do so, combine the olive oil, the juice and zest from the oranges and the limes, the remaining two stems of oregano, the cilantro, mint, garlic, remaining salt, pepper, and cumin. Wisk to combine these all.
Now remove the turkey from the overnight brine and discard the previous marinade. Place the turkey in a bowl and cover it with the mojo marinade, massaging the marinade into the meat for one minute before covering it up again and refrigerating for 2 more hours.
Roast the marinated turkey
When the second marinating period is nearly done, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now remove the turkey from the marinade, brushing off any large pieces of herbs that might be clinging to the meat. Place the turkey on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet or roasting. Brush marinade over the top of the meat, and then roast it at 350 degrees for 2 ½ hours, or until the turkey registers 165 degrees internally at its thickest point, which you’ll ideally measure using a meat thermometer. Finally, cover the turkey with some aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 30 minutes outside of the oven.
Slice the meat and assemble the sandwiches
Slice the French bread into sandwich-sized pieces, then butter the inside of the bread. Next, toast it, butter side down, in a hot sauté pan. Now slice the turkey into pieces about ¼ inch thick. In a lightly oiled nonstick pan, sear the slice of turkey and ham for a few seconds on each side. Now fill the sandwiches with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. Next smear the inside of the bottom bun with mustard.
Finally, smear the exterior of the bread with butter and press it into a hot sauté pan for about 2 minutes on each side, or until the bread is golden and toasted. Now, at last, enjoy!
So, what’s the twist?
Alright, now you know about the scope of the ingredients and the time involved here, but what, exactly, is the twist on the traditional Cuban sandwich? Of course, fans of a classic Cubano may have already spotted the difference.
"The twist is to use turkey breast instead of pork," says Carli. At first, that may seem overly simple, but it turns out that the switch can be pretty profound. The turkey, left to marinate for long enough, positively soaks in the flavor of the many marinade ingredients blended together in this recipe. The result is a rich, deeply flavored sandwich that takes this widely beloved sandwich and brings it into another arena entirely.
- 4 cups orange juice
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ cup spiced rum
- 7 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- Head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
- 4 stems oregano, roughly chopped, divided
- 2 stems rosemary, roughly chopped
- 2 stems thyme, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon sage, roughly chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 5.5-pound frozen turkey breast, thawed
- 5.5-pound frozen turkey breast, thawed
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 oranges, zested and juiced
- 6 limes, zested and juiced
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 French loaf
- 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 8 ounces thick deli ham
- 12 slices Swiss cheese
- 2 dill pickles, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons mustard
- Combine orange juice, water, rice wine vinegar, rum, ½ cup salt, brown sugar, garlic, 2 stems oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and bay leaves in a large bowl, and whisk to combine.
- Place the turkey breast in a large bowl and pour marinade on top, then cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
- To make mojo marinade: combine olive oil, juice and zest from oranges, juice and zest from limes, remaining 2 stems of oregano, cilantro, mint, garlic, remaining salt, pepper, and cumin, and whisk to combine.
- Remove turkey from brine and discard brine, then place turkey in a bowl and cover with mojo marinade. Massage marinade into turkey for 1 minute before covering and refrigerating for 2 hours.
- Remove turkey from marinade and place on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, then brush with marinade. Roast at 350 degrees for 2 ½ hours, until the turkey registers 165 F in the middle.
- Cover the turkey with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Cut bread into four pieces. Butter inside of bread and toast butter side down in a hot sauté pan.
- Slice turkey about ¼ inch thick, then in a lightly oiled nonstick pan sear turkey and ham.
- Fill sandwiches with turkey, ham, cheese, and pickles. Smear bottom bread with mustard.
- Smear the top exterior of the bread with butter and press into a heated sauté pan for 2 – 3 minutes until the bread is golden.