Deconstructing the Medianoche
We sat down with Sef and Cari at Little Havana’s El Exquisito restaurant to talk about the medianoche, so named because people eat it as a midnight snack. What makes the classic medianoche?
SEF: The eggy, delicious bread – crusty on the outside, toasted from the press – and then, of course, the roast pork, the ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard – musta – and that’s it. But there are different techniques to making it. Some people do the open press – they open the sandwich in half, press it, and then they close it, and then they press it again, which is generally the best way to get everything warm. CARI: If you have poor quality ingredients in the sandwich, that’ll hurt it. But what really identifies it as a medianoche is the bread. That really brings it to life. SEF: Why I prefer a medianoche over Cuban is definitely the bread. I prefer the sweet aspect of the bread. It’s not as crusty as the Cuban bread, so I like that it doesn’t disintegrate as I’m trying to eat it, which is what happens with Cuban bread. When you toast it too much and bite into it, it’s like a thousand pieces all over your shirt. CARI: You’ve gotta gave equal parts of ham and pork. You want good ratios of what you’re doing. I think the cheese should be melted throughout.
And the cheese?
CARIAND SEF (in unison): Always Swiss.
SEF: (pointing to the cut-open sandwich): See that piece of cheese right here? See how beautiful he is?
Which are your favorite places?
SEF: I think the place we have in common is Luis Galindo Latin America on 57th and 8th.
CARI: I was actually talking about the one that used to be in Hialeah.
SEF: But that wasn’t Luis Galindo. That was just Latin American. You’re talking about the one where Caribe used to be.
CARI: When I think back to the ideal medianoche, I think back to that place.
SEF: My parents used to go there and sit at the counter and watch them make your sandwiches.
CARI: It’s a nostalgic place for me. My dad would take me when I was little, sit me at the counter, we would watch the guys make the sandwiches and then we would share a medianoche.
SEF: I’ve been going to the original Caribe, which is right here on NW 7th and 40th, since I was a kid, with my dad. Now Caribe has five locations ... Los Bobos in Doral, theirs stood out because of the mojo they put on their pork – really, when you bite into their sandwich, it’s one of the first things you noticed. They also do pan con lechon very good, only on Saturdays.
What kinds of variations do you see?
SEF: I’m sure we could stop in five places and one place might not have a pickle and one place might actually have mayo instead of mustard.
CARI: I’ve seen prosciutto instead of ham. You can find a good medianoche for five bucks. In Hialeah you can get it for $4.95.
SEF: It’s $5.75 here.
What about the South Beach Wine & Food Festival?
SEF: When Lee Schrager first approached me for Sobe, we were actually at Azucar across the street and I was talking to him about the medianoche here. This year’s event is gonna have a frita, croqueta preparada and some variations on the sandwiches, too. I would say there’s a lot of locals at this event, as opposed to a lot of other events.
CARI: And I think that’s what’s nice about this event. People who wouldn’t think about paying $300 for Burger Bash can see this event at a lower price point.
Thanks to Alex Hernandez of El Exquisito in Little Havana.
MEDIANOCHES & MIXOLOGY
South Beach Wine & Food Festival Feb. 21, 10pm-1am,Wynwood Walls, 2520 NW 2nd Avenue Join Sef and celebrity host, Iron Chef and Food Network personality Alex Guarnaschelli tasting top medianoches and sipping handcrafted cocktails in Wynwood. http://sobefest.com/medianoche.
IS THIS A MEDIANOCHE?
At the new Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Company, chef Alberto Cabrera's medianoche is tasty, but falls outside o f the classic category, says Sef: “lt has lettuce and tomato. It's a triple decker on brioche. It's a club sandwich. Flavor-wise, it's very good. When I eat it, I think of a medianoche."
Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Co. 541 SW 12 Ave., Miami, lilbread.com
CARI'S FAVE MEDIANOCHES Caribe Cafe
(formerly Latin American Cafe)
1750 W 68 St., Hialeah
El Indio Bakery
4160 East 4th Avenue, Hialeah
1201 West 44th Place, Hialeah
SEF'S FAVE MEDIANOCHES El Exquisito
1510 SW 8 S t ., Miami
3953 NW 7 St., Miami
Luis Galindo Latin American #1
8 98 SW 5 7A ve ., Miami