A few years ago, electric panini presses were all the rage. Cuisinart, Breville, Hamilton Beach—all the “kitchen electrics” manufacturers came out with floating-hinge, contact grills designed to toast and press sandwiches. I resisted the urge to buy one, as my present kitchen has so little storage space, and I dislike single-use appliances (exception granted for the espresso machine). Still, who doesn’t love a good pressed sandwich? A fridge full of leftover roasted pork had me craving Cuban sandwiches, so I decided to improvise.
To get the crisp, flattened texture of a good Cuban, a fairly heavy press is required. Merely mashing on the layered sandwich, even with a sturdy metal spatula, won’t compress the bread into a crisp shell. What I needed was some serious heft…..
Le Creuset to the rescue. Turns out that a 3-quart, oval enameled cast iron pot is the ideal shape and size to press sandwiches. Simply butter (or oil) the bottom lightly, and place the pot atop a griddle to heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, insert a sandwich. A few minutes per side and a bit of gentle pressure just after turning yields toasty, crusty results (see above).
No need to buy a specialized, single-use appliance. A good, heavy pot did the trick.