I was recently thinking about the Cuban-style sandwiches that I made and wrote about way back in August of 2021. Specifically, I was thinking about the super tasty mojo marinade that I use for roast pork, and I was trying to scheme up an idea of how I could incorporate it into another sandwich. My initial thought told me to double down on the Cuban-style sandwich and make it a pressed, panini-style with garlicky mojo-sauced meat and cheese.
So, I went in that direction. Yes, the Cuban but not Cuban direction.
For the protein, I felt like going the simple route by buying it already cooked in a method that almost all American grocery stores—and even warehouse/big box stores like Costco—have available. Say hello to the rotisserie chicken.
I’m not even sure how these magical grocery store rotisserie chickens work. They’re fully cooked and, in theory, well-seasoned on the outside, yet they cost almost the same or sometimes even less than the same amount of chicken that is sold uncooked. If you can find a good grocery store that keeps a very fresh stock of cooked chicken available, the chicken pieces can be separated and eaten as is, or the meat can be pulled from the bones and turned into a quick taco, or pasta night. I doubt that you need me to demonstrate how to use it or to explain how grocery store rotisserie chicken is genuinely a modern convenience.
Anyway, let’s get into the components of this sandwich. First, the bread.
The Cubano bread
At its most basic, pan Cubano, or Cuban bread, is simply a sub-shaped roll that has lard instead of other fats in the recipe. I don’t always keep lard in my pantry, but it is easy for me to find it at my nearby grocery stores. If you can’t find lard, or you don’t like the idea of baking with lard, you can simply use my Cuban bread roll recipe below, omit the lard, and in its place, you can add 2 tablespoons of softened butter or 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and your recipe will turn out pretty much the same.
Once you have your choice of fat settled, this is simply another long bread roll like others we’ve made for this blog many times before.
My recipe makes 3 rolls, but I used the bun calculator that I built a year or so ago to scale up this recipe to four rolls. Basically, if you own a scale (AND YOU SHOULD) altering a dough recipe that is in grams is practically as simple as mathematically adjusting the recipe up and down. There are some factors, mostly dealing with the yeast when you take the scale up or down too much, but for the most part, the ingredients should work when scaled up or down.
Here’s my pan Cubano recipe that works great for panini-style sandwiches and pretty much any sub sandwich that requires a soft roll.
Making Cuban sandwiches? First you're going to need to find some lard. Then you'll need to make these soft, semi-crusty rolls that eventually you'll smash between two hot surfaces. Oh, and you'll need some pork, ham (also pork), mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles!Get Recipe
Crispy chicken skin
You don’t have to listen to me, but I suggest that you save the skin when you break down a rotisserie chicken. With almost no effort, you can bake it on a sheet pan in a 400-degree F (204 C) oven for 10 to 15 minutes to crisp it up. I usually check it about 10 minutes into the cooking process and flip each skin over onto the other side to get a judgment on how crispy it has become. If it still seems a little limp, add it back into the oven for the final 5 minutes.
Once your chicken skin is all crispy, you can use it like bacon in a sandwich or slice it up into smaller pieces for a crunchy garnish. You can also just put the chicken skin in a skillet and crisp it up that way if you wanted, but in my experience, the oven method is just easy and hands-off.
Once the chicken skin pieces are crispy, place them on a paper towel-lined plate just like you would with bacon. Once it’s cool, you can place it in a zip-top bag or Tupperware, and from my experience, it will still be crunchy in a few days’ time. Even fresh from the fridge the skin stays crunchy for a midnight or midday or breakfast or even snack time snack.
Chicken and mojo marinade
This mojo marinade that I’m using here as a sauce is the heavy hitter in this sandwich. This tangy, garlicy, citrusy marinade must be put together before making this sandwich and can sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days before sandwiching. If you’re making it in advance, I would suggest bringing the sauce/marinade out of the fridge 30 minutes or so before sandwiching since the marinade will thicken when it’s cool.
After a little online research, I’ve learned that the original mojo sauce likely originates from the Canary Islands, off the coast of northwestern Africa. There are green and red versions of Canarian mojo, but Caribbean islands, including Cuba, make a different version of mojo. Cuban mojo has flavors that are focused on garlic, olive oil, citrus, cumin, and often pork fat. The Canary Islands version of mojo seems to lack some of the acid from the lime and orange juice addition in the sauce that I make.
Adjusting the salt level
At this point, I have made this mojo marinade three times for this sandwich. The first time I made it exactly like I have in the past for the Cuban roast pork and it turned out too salty in this application. I didn’t really think about this beforehand, but it makes sense that a marinade can be salty because a lot of it doesn’t stay on the meat or is just used for seasoning, but when it is used as a sauce, I needed to cut the salt a little, so that’s reflected in the recipe.
I quickly toss the pulled chicken in a medium heat pan for 3 to 5 minutes with a couple of spoons full of marinade. This quick cooking process serves multiple functions here. It warms the chicken, and it does cook some of the garlic so that it’s not all raw. Putting warm meat inside a sandwich prior to the panini process is also helpful for getting the cheese closer to melting.
Pickled Vidalia onions
I shared this recipe last week and have really been enjoying these pickled Vidalias on sandwiches lately. I’m not going to write too much about them, but I do think their zing is appreciated in a sandwich like this. You can use regular dill pickles if that’s what you like. The pickle option here is pretty interchangeable, but if you want to make the exact sandwich I made today you will need this recipe.
I own a small appliance dedicated to panini pressing and we use it often in our house. But if you don’t have one, all you need are two pots or pans where one is a little bit smaller than the other. Cast iron skillets work the best because you can’t hurt them by scraping them or stacking them on each other. You put the sandwich in the bigger pan and use the second, smaller pan as a weight to press down on top of the sandwich.
Put both pots or pans on two different eyes and warm them up. Make sure the bottom is clean on the smaller pan that will be used on top of the sandwich. You don’t have to heat up the top pan if you don’t want to, but it does seem to speed up the process.
You can see in the photos below how I used a pan with a pot on top to make one of these panini versions.
It helps if the top pan or pot is heavy enough to press down on the sandwich, but if it isn’t you can give it a bit of a press before and after you flip the sandwich.
Mojo chicken panini photos and recipe
Here are some photos of this sandwich. I’ve made it a bunch of times at this point as will notice as you scroll.
Want an alternative to a Cuban sandwich? This is chicken in a savory and garlicy sauce with melty cheese, pressed in a butter-seared and crunchy roll.
- 12 cloves minced garlic (around 1 head of garlic
- 1⁄4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- chicken skin from rotisserie chicken
- 1⁄2 cup pulled rotisserie chicken
- mojo marinade (from above)
- 1 six-inch long Cuban bread roll or a French bread roll
- 2 to 3 slices provolone cheese (or cheddar or pretty much any sliced cheese)
- crispy chicken skin (from above)
- pickled onions or any other type of sandwich pickle
- 2 tablespoons butter
Mojo marinade: combine mojo marinade ingredients in a bowl and stir to integrate, creating the sauce.
Rotisserie chicken and crispy skin: carefully remove the skin from a rotisserie chicken and set it aside on a plate. Continue breaking down the chicken and separating all the meat from the carcass. Add chicken to a sealed container and store it in the refrigerator.
Add chicken skin to an unlined sheet pan or cookie pan and preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Bake the skin for 10 to 15 minutes or until it is fully crispy. Carefully move the now crispy skin to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. You can store any unused skin in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days.
Sandwich assembly: slice your roll all the way through.
Add some chicken and a couple of spoons of mojo marinade to a pan to cook and warm up for 4 to 5 minutes. The chicken is fully cooked so you are just trying to reheat it.
Spread a couple of spoonfuls of mojo sauce on the bottom bread roll. Top the sauce with half of the sliced cheese.
Place warm chicken on top of the cheese. Add crispy chicken skin on top of the chicken and top the skin with pickled onions or another choice of pickles.
Cover everything with the rest of the cheese and top with the top roll.
Butter both sides of the sandwich and cook it in a panini press until the bread gets crusty and browned. If you do not have a panini press, you can use a hot cast iron skillet with another skillet on top of the sandwich, pressing it down. This will griddle the bottom side and you will have to flip the sandwich, but it will work just fine.
Once both sides of the bread are browned and the cheese is melty, serve and enjoy.
Check back next week for our first Patreon-requested sandwich
The sandwich coming up is a classic but as usual, I also made a version that is quite a doozy. Join up over on Patreon to support the sandwich blog and get inside info on what is coming next.