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.
Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Chris Martin, the Johnson & Wales graduate with a background in fine dining who moved to Charlottesville to launch a pop-up bakeshop. Her Baker No Bakery now pops up periodically at Guajiros and elsewhere, offering treats like sesame leaf glazed donuts, fritters, tarts, and more. And, cookie deliveries are always available here. Look for her tomorrow, September 4, at Guajiros from 9 am – 12 pm. Early bird gets the worm, because she can sell out fast. Stay up to date on her Instagram page. Martin’s picks:
1) Café con Leche at Guajiros Miami Eatery. “The perfect balance of espresso, sweetness, espuma, and milk. And enough caffeine to fuel me for eternity. I drink this iced every single day I can.”
2) Taiyakis from Basan. “Basan is delightful because of their specials, and I’m personally obsessed with their taiyakis. There is typically always a red bean flavor, but there was a banana cream flavor that lingers with me to this day.”
3) Baleadas at El Ciruelo. “This restaurant has amazing flour tortillas, and they shine in any and all of the baleadas. My Honduran coworker introduced me to these and I can’t get enough.”
4) Ddukbokki at Kuma Sushi Noodles & Bar. “Their ddukbokki is perfectly spicy, with chewy rice cakes that I adore. Also the iced honey plum tea is *chefs kiss*.”
5) Biko from Manila Street. “I love sticky rice, and Manila Street’s traditional Filipino dessert called biko in the Dairy Market is so good. The chewiness of the rice, just sweet enough, and toasted coconut are super yum.”
Charlottesville lost a beloved member of its food community this week. Noah Comarovschi cooked all over Charlottesville, at places like Oakhart Social, Public Fish & Oyster, Bizou, and Brookville. In memory of Noah, today’s Five Finds on Friday are some of his favorites, as remembered by friends and family. Noah leaves behind his seven-year-old son Isaac, who suddenly finds himself without a father. As Isaac was the light of Noah’s life, in tribute to Noah, friends have established a fund for Isaac’s education and well being. Help Isaac here.
1) Cabeza Tacos at El Tako Nako and Tacos Gomez. “We all loved Noah and we are all heart broken. He was such a fun, loving person and truly part of our Oakhart family and DNA. He was the kind of guy who let everyone know how much they meant to him. When I think about Noah, I think about us laughing a lot. I think about us arguing about whether El Tako Nako or Tacos Gomez has the better cabeza. I think about listening to the Jesus Lizard way too loud and sharing a hidden a box of cornstarch in the walk-in (IYKYK). I think about us having a couple too many shifties after long, hot services. One particular memory that stands out, because of how it encapsulated his love of family and of food, was the day that he brought in a few beautiful Cherokee Purple tomatoes from his dad’s garden. He was so proud of these tomatoes and of his dad who he was very close with. Honestly we all agreed that they were the best tomatoes we had all tasted that summer. He cut them up, sprinkled a little Maldon, cracked a little black pepper on them and insisted that we all try them. Then there was the mayo pairing. Hellmans? Not a f-ing chance. Dukes or Kewpie, nothing less. He beamed with pride sharing his dad’s ‘maters and it was a really happy afternoon. He is loved and missed.” – Tristan Wraight
2) Bagels with Lox and Herb Cream Cheese from Bodo’s. “We are far from a religious family, but Sunday meal was always sacred to us. As Pops always says, ‘It is not a Comarovschi get-together unless there is too much food.’ Those family dinners are some of my favorite memories with my brother. It didn’t matter what we were noshing on, as long as we were all together. The simple stuff like a spread of Bodo’s bagels with herb schmear and lox, or a heaping pile of all beef Hebrew National hotdogs were just as enjoyable as a decadent pork belly or butter braised ribeye. I think at times he saw being the chef in the family as a blessing and a burden. He always volunteered to man the grill, or slice the turkey and ham at Thanksgiving, or pick the restaurant that we would go to when he and I went to shows in other cities. And even when his annoyance at a request to cook our step-mom’s steak to well done was palpable, Noah still did it because he knew we appreciated his culinary prowess and he just wanted to contribute something that everyone could enjoy.” Anna Comarovschi
3) Sesame Chicken at Ming Dynasty. “The classic Ming Dynasty of the 1990s was a favorite spot for Noah and I back in the day. I remember he always got the sesame chicken. We would go there after we got paid working at Cooper and Seacrest doing political surveying. All the old crew worked there at one time or another.” Jaison Burke
4) Empanadas at Guajiros Miami Eatery. “We went later in the evening towards their closing time. No one was in there but us. We pored over the menu and couldn’t decide, so naturally we ordered half of the menu. While we were waiting we began to chat with the owner. Noah may have been a chatterbox — never met a stranger — but I am certainly not. The owner was so friendly and kind that we ended up just talking for another thirty minutes after our order was ready. Even though we ordered half the menu, I forgot to try their fried cheese, and upon mentioning this the owner went and dropped some in the fryer for us to munch on while we waited. Noah was very excited about the Maduros served with crème fraiche, and they were great. We also got the Cuban and Pan Con Croqueta, all great. But what really blew us away were the empanadas. What makes these empanadas truly spectacular is that they are both crispy on the outside but the dough remains perfectly soft. The texture, filling and the house made sauces are all flawlessly executed and wonderfully brought together to bring the best empanada I have ever had, and one Noah could not work out an equal. Truly a rare feat. – Robbie Hall
5) Traditional Chinese at Yuan Ho. “Noah absolutely loved Yuan Ho when we lived together in the early 2000’s. They were the first Chinese restaurant where I ever encountered the ‘Non-Western’ menu. Noah knew the owners personally, and they would let us in the back area where the kitchen was. It was my first time seeing a few traditional Chinese dishes and my first time seeing chefs use a wok station and a cleaver. That sparked my obsession with Asian culture and cuisine, and I’ll always remember that day.” – Mitchell Beerens