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R&IEditorial Archives2005February 1 — Food

Cuban Roast Pork Dip
A convergence of trends helps Yard House’s new signature sandwich pack a mighty menu wallop.

Yard House restaurants’ Cuban Roast Pork Dip steals unabashedly from three sandwich stars: French dip’s succulent au jus, pulled pork’s sweet barbecue zing and most proudly, the Cuban sandwich’s unique flavor union.

The composition of the Cuban Roast Pork Dip reflects the 10-unit, Irvine, Calif.-based chain’s “American fusion” cuisine: U.S.-bred items sparked by ethnic twists. Acknowledging the upscale-sandwich trend, the item was introduced in November 2004 as part of a menu revision that included four appetizers and three other sandwiches. Partner and Executive Chef Carlito Jocson wanted to capitalize on sandwiches’ popularity and offer more choices at lunch, which accounts for about 30% of the concept’s sales.

Cuban Roast Pork Dip
COMPOSITION: Roasted-garlic aioli, roast pork, pepper Jack cheese, roasted Roma tomatoes, pickles and Dijon mustard on grilled French bread with barbecue jus

A fortuitous series of inspirations led him to the item’s current incarnation: roasted-garlic aioli, roast pork, pepper Jack cheese, roasted Roma tomatoes, pickles and Dijon mustard, served on grilled French bread with barbecue jus for dipping. The recipe strays from the standard Cuban sandwich composition of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard piled between Cuban bread that is grilled in a sandwich press.

“I like the idea of a Cuban pork sandwich, but we didn’t have the pressing equipment or crusty French baguettes,” Jocson says.

Nearly 8 ounces of pork top sirloin in quarter-inch slices—roasted with onions, garlic, paprika and other spices—impart intense flavor that dominates the sandwich. Including ham for tradition’s sake would have detracted from the pork’s impact, says Jocson, who instead chose to cut the protein’s richness with the acidity of tomatoes.

“Fresh tomatoes just didn’t do it, so we take Roma tomatoes and roast them with a bit of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper,” he says.

For a crisp texture, Yard House’s sandwich retains the traditional dill pickles, sliced lengthwise here to ensure a taste in every bite. A thin spread of Dijon mustard layers in tang, while the potent punch of pepper Jack replaces the Swiss cheese Jocson says was too mild to stand up to the jus.

“The feeling out there is that, ‘Wow, this is something different.’ It looks like it could be a signature,” Jocson says.

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