#12: Belle Cubano – Belle

by Charlottesville29

The Cuban

A great chef knows to tread carefully with a classic dish. Invoking a classic’s name on a menu can create expectations that risk leaving some disappointed by even slight deviations.

Belle’s John Shanesy is a great chef. And his riff on a Cuban sandwich is outstanding. In hotspots like Miami and Tampa Bay, where the sandwich dates back more than a century, there are strong opinions about what belongs on it, or, more importantly, what does not. Traditional ingredients include roast pork, ham (sometimes salami), Swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles, and yellow mustard, pressed on Cuban bread.

Shanesy’s recipe tracks these fairly closely, but with a chef’s attention to detail, and only carefully considered deviations. For the pork, instead of the standard roast, Shanesy braises Autumn Olive Farms pork shoulder overnight, in salt, water, and the pork’s own fat, and throws in pig feet and skin as well to ramp up the swine flavor. The next day, he pulls the meat and cools it. Shanesy’s ham choice is prosciutto cotto for its ability to retain flavor and texture whether served hot or cold. The bread is his brother’s sourdough hoagie rolls made with Autumn Olive Farms cornmeal and local Deep Roots flour, which he fries on both sides in butter until crisp, and then smears on mustard and mayo. For assembly, he sears the braised pork and piles it on the bread with the prosciutto cotto, Alsatian Gruyere, and a generous handful of house-made pickle slices. Finally, there is Shanesy’s main tweak to the standard recipe: a salsa verde he makes from chopped herbs, jalapeños, fresh squeezed orange juice, apple vinegar, and oil, which adds flavor and offsets the sandwich’s richness, without upsetting its underlying appeal. The verdict? Spot-on.

#12: Belle Cubano – Belle
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Cuban Pickle Crisis at Ivy Provisions, El Cubano at Guajiros, Ace Cuban at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue