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Cuban sandwich diplomacy

A Cuban sandwich served at the reborn Cafe

A Cuban sandwich served at the reborn Cafe Havana in Smithtown. Photo Credit: Newsday / Ana P. Gutierrez

On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced its intention to pursue full diplomatic relations with Cuba. Long Island restaurants are way ahead on that score; you don’t even need a visa to enjoy a good Cuban meal and a mojito in Nassau or Suffolk:

Corazon de Cuba is at 26 E. Park Ave., Long Beach, 516-272-4200, corazondecuba.com

Havana Central is at Roosevelt Field, 630 Old Country Rd., Garden City, 516-739-7900, havanacentral.com

Cafe Havana is at 944 W. Jericho Tpke., Smithtown, 631-670-6277, cafehavanali.com

Cuban cooking is similar to that of neighboring Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic — lots of pork, rice, beans, root vegetables and tropical fruit.

Perhaps Cuba's most significant contribution to world cuisine is the medianoche, the great pressed pork-and-ham sandwich, which long ago established diplomatic ties with non-Cuban restaurants. Two excellent specimens on Long Island can be found at Sabroso Dominican Restaurant (224 East Meadow Ave., East Meadow, 516-307-1750, sabrosony.com) and Sapsuckers Hops & Grub (287 Main St., Huntington, 631-683-4945, sapsuckersli.com).

Or, launch your own bid for Cuban-American amity by making your own mojito or Cuban sandwich.

CUBAN SANDWICH

The best bread for a Cuban sandwich is a rather undistinguished, not-too-crusty hero-style roll that is easily pressed into submission. If you have a proper sandwich press (or George Foreman grill), great. If not, you can easily improvise with, for example, a low-sided, nonstick pancake griddle and, to press the sandwiches, a Pyrex lasagna pan weighted down with four large cans of tomatoes.

1 (18-inch) loaf of French- or Italian-style bread, not a baguette

Yellow mustard

Mayonnaise (optional)

¼ pound Swiss cheese, sliced

½ pound deli ham, sliced

¾ pound roast pork, sliced (If there's a Cuban, Salvadoran, Colombian, Dominican or Puerto Rican restaurant near you, it will have the roast pork shoulder you need.)

Dill pickles, sliced

Butter, at room temperature, or cooking spray

1. Cut the loaf of bread into quarters and slice each quarter in half lengthwise; spread the mustard (and mayonnaise, if desired) on the cut sides of all the bread.

2. Build the sandwich by layering first the cheese (broken so that it doesn't overhang the bread), the ham (folded), a few slices of pickles, the pork, more ham and more cheese between the bread slices.

3. Preheat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the cooking surface of the griddle or frying pan with cooking spray or butter. Place as many sandwiches as you can fit onto the hot surface. Place a large sheet of foil over the sandwiches and on top of the foil lay another heavy skillet, or a weighted baking dish. Press the foil down so it surrounds the sandwiches — this will keep some of the heat in. Press the bread down to about a third of its original size.

4. Cook the sandwiches for 2 or 3 minutes, until nicely browned, then turn them over and repeat. Cook until cheese is melted. Slice each sandwich in half diagonally and serve. Makes 4 servings.

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