First, the bread. Keep in mind that you can take the lazy way, and use a loaf of french bread...but it won't be nearly as yummy.
Although it is made with the same basic ingredients as French bread, the baking procedure for Cuban bread is different. The dough is put in a cold oven, set above a pan of boiling water, and left to rest for a few minutes before the oven is turned on. Because the bread continues to rise as the oven heats, its crust is very thin and crisp. It is made without fat, so it is best if eaten on the day it is baked, as it will go stale quickly.
You will need:
1 scant tablespoon or 1 (1/2-ounce) package active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, soften the yeast in the water.
Add the salt and 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously with a dough whisk or a heavy-handled spoon for 2 minutes. (We used the dough hook on our mixer.)
Gradually add more of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough forms a mass and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.
Knead, adding more flour, a little at a time as necessary, about 8 to 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, elastic dough and blisters begin to develop on the surface.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven kitchen towel and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead it into a ball. Put the dough on a well-greased baking sheet and flatten it slightly so that is about 3 inches high. Make 3 slits in the top of the loaf, about 1/4 inch deep and 2 inches apart.
Pour 1 cup of boiling water into a shallow pan and put the pan on the lower shelf of an unheated oven. put the dough on the shelf above, wait 10 minutes, turn the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the bead for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. (Ours took an additional 15 minutes to come to temperature.)
Immediately remove from the baking sheet and cool on a rack.
Now, on to the most delicious sandwich to ever grace a plate.
In making a good medianoche, remember this: The roast pork is what will make the sandwich, so you can never leave it out.
3 thin slices (almost shaved) of ham
3 thin slices roast pork hot or cold (I use hot, slow roasted pork)
3 thin slices of salami (genoa is best)
3 thin slices of Swiss cheese
3 or 4 slices of pickles
1/3 cut sweet Cuban bread
You should be using fresh, sweet Cuban bread, but you can always use an 12" loaf of french bread cut in half.
Slice the bread open face so that both halves are still barely connected and spread mustard on both halves.
Add the ham, salami and then the roasted pork. (When in a hurry, you can use one whole piece of roasted pork.)
Add your swiss cheese and then a few pickle slices.
Make sure to spray your sandwich press with a little butter flavored Pam (some people basically smother the outside of the sandwich with butter before pressing).
Place the sandwich in a sandwich press and press down until the cheese is melted and the bread is slightly hard to the touch. ( For those of you without a press, you can also place the sandwich in a hot skillet and press down on it with a heavy kitchen object. (I've been known to do it ghetto-style, with a brick wrapped in tin foil when nothing else is available).
When finished, slice the sandwich diagonally across the middle so that you have two triangle shaped wedges.