The Elena Ruz sandwich always seemed a little out of place on the menu. A combination of roasted turkey, cream cheese and strawberry preserves, it floats alongside the heavier ham, lechon asado and cheese melds of Cuban lunch menus – lighter and prettier with a first and last name. Named for Elena Ruz, a Havana socialite who had the unusual combination made to order for her at El Carmelo. Then a fashionable cafe in the 1930s, it landed on the menu becoming a popular item. According to later interviews, her parents were scandalized to see a sign for “Sandwich Elena Ruz 25 centavos” on display, though as she pointed out the other sandwiches only went for 10 cents at the time.
Roasted turkey, sliced
Cream cheese, softened and blended
Pan de Medianoche*
Slice roll in half. Form a 1/4″ wide strip down the middle of each half and spread an even layer of strawberry preserves on both sides. Cover with one half with a layer of roasted turkey and top with an even layer of cream cheese. Press on a greased griddle until lightly toasted and warmed through. Cut on the diagonal and serve.
*Toasted white bread can be substituted for the pressed sandwich roll.
Pan de Medianoche
Originally adapted with permission from Three Guys From Miami Cook Cuban by Glenn Lindgren, Raúl Musibay, and Jorge Castillo. I substituted butter for lard and added the final cup of flour by hand. I’ve re-posted the recipe to reflect some changes I made the second time around.
2 packets (dry active) yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
4-5 cups bread flour, more or less
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons warm water
In a large bowl, mix yeast and three tablespoons sugar in one 1 1/4 cup of water. Place in a warm place and wait for the yeast to begin bubbling. (If it doesn’t bubble and foam, you have some bad yeast or something else went wrong and you’ll need to start over.)
Beat the eggs until foamy. Add the eggs, the rest of the sugar, salt, and melted butter to the yeast/water mixture.
Using a mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment on low speed, add four cups of flour, one cup at a time. Continue to beat on medium, until the dough begins to pull away from sides of the bowl.
Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead in remaining cup of flour, as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball place into a large, greased mixing bowl, immediately turning over so that all sides are greased. Cover with a piece of lightly greased plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. At this point it can be refrigerated over night and brought to room temperature before proceeding.
Place the dough on your work surface and punch it down. Divide the dough into good-sized handfuls. Roll each handful on a lightly floured surface to make cylinders about five inches long and about 2 1/4 inches in diameter. Arrange rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a slightly damp, clean towel. Let rise in a warm place for about one hour or until the rolls double in volume.
Preheat oven to 350º F
Brush the tops of the rolls liberally with the egg glaze. Bake until golden brown — about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove the rolls from the oven, take them off the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack. While they are still warm, brush the tops with a little melted butter. Use for medianoche sandwiches, or serve warm as a side dish.