Cuban Mojo Chicken Sandwiches with Garlic Aioli

My best friend from college, Marisa, is visiting from Key West this week — and when she asked me if there was anything she could bring from Florida, I nearly exploded begging her to bring me some freshly baked Cuban bread. You see, there is literally nowhere in Denver to buy Cuban bread. My favorite restaurant, Cuba Cuba, even has to fly theirs in from Miami. Not cool, right? So when Marisa showed up with a massive supply of Cuban bread, I knew I had to make some mean sandwiches for everyone. There wasn’t time for my usual lechon asado — so I improvised a little with chicken!

The first step to cooking delicious Cuban meat is making your own mojo to marinate it in. Our household recently acquired a really gorgeous mortar and pestle, so I’ve been going a little crazy with my mojo experiments. It’s just too much fun mashing garlic and onion and spices together — the whole kitchen smells like savory heaven!

How to make your own mojo!

The other “sauce” necessary for this recipe admittedly intimidated me at first — the garlic aioli is mayonnaise-based (and I am not a mayo fan). I was worried it was going to be too mayo-ish, but mixing in the fresh herbs and tangy mojo created the perfect flavor and texture. My mayo-phobia caused me to be cautious when lathering the sandwiches with the aioli, but we all ended up going back to dip our bread in more and more sauce — it was so tasty! But back to the mojo chicken:

cubanmojo

Here’s a little secret that I must confess: I was so diligent with taking pictures of every step of the recipe and taking notes on my ingredients — but once I plated all four sandwiches, I totally forgot to snap a photo of the final product! I improvised a bit and tried to arrange my plate so you couldn’t notice that I had totally already eaten half of my sandwich, oops. It’s the thought that counts, right? 

IMG_0930This Cuban sandwich recipe became an instant favorite. I’m finicky with my meat, so the traditional Cuban sandwich with deli ham (yuck!) isn’t quite my cup of tea. The mojo marinated chicken is lean yet so flavorful. If you want an extra Cuban kick, try adding pepperoncini or pickles to your sandwich.

Let me know your thoughts on my Cuban mojo chicken sandwich with garlic aioli recipe! What’s YOUR favorite Cuban sandwich recipe?

 

Cuban Mojo Chicken Pressed Sandwiches
 
Pulled chicken marinated in homemade mojo, pressed on Cuban bread with swiss cheese and garlic aioli.
Author:
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 loaves Cuban bread
  • two heads of garlic
  • sliced swiss cheese
  • 2 lbs. chicken tenderloins/breast
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 limes
  • 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
Instructions
  1. Prepare the homemade mojo: Finely dice the garlic and onion. Mash together with salt, pepper, and oregano. Squeeze the juice from the limes and orange, and mix together. (I use a mortar and pestle, but any other method will suffice.)
  2. Prepare the garlic aioli: combine one part chopped parsley, one part mojo, and three parts mayonaise. Add additional mojo to taste.
  3. Pour the mojo over the raw chicken -- then marinate in the refrigerator for one hour.
  4. Over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet, cook the chicken in the mojo juices. Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, use two forks to shred the chicken in the cast iron. Continue to cook until the chicken lightly browns. Remove chicken.
  5. Prepare the sandwiches by slicing the Cuban loaf in half. Spread aioli on one side, add a thick layer of shredded chicken, a slice of swiss cheese, and a few slices of avocado. Butter the outside of the sandwiches.
  6. Melt a teaspoon of butter in the cast iron, then add the sandwiches. Using a large, flat pot cover, firmly press the sandwiches as they heat up. **If you have a few bricks easily accessible, you can use them to keep the sandwiches pressed.
  7. Enjoy!

 

Sweet potato hash, buttery salmon benedict, and messy donuts bites at Jelly Cafe in Denver, CO

There are few things that will happily lure me out of bed at 7:00 in the morning – snagging a table at Jelly Café early enough to avoid waiting in an epic queue of hungry hipsters is one of those things.

I was first introduced to the edible bliss of Jelly Café through my then-housemate, McGoo. He’s the ultimate source for the best eats around, and his recommendations are the kind I always follow. Any time he gets excited about taking me somewhere to eat, I can pretty much guarantee that I’m in for a treat.

Walk up to this breakfast haven sitting on the corner of Pearl Street and 13th Avenue any time after 9:30 AM, and you’re guaranteed to be in for a wait. I waited almost two hours once – and I would so do it again in exchange for what I’ll dub the best breakfast diner in Colorado, possibly the entire country.

Before you even attempt to survey the menu, request an order of their famous donut bites – and make sure you get a mix of all the tantalizing varieties. Each fresh puff of crispy dough represents one of four creamy concoctions: crème anglaise, homemade jelly, chocolate anglaise, or cinnamon sugar. Taking the first bite into any given beignet guarantees a dripping mess all over your chin – just let it happen.

Another pre-breakfast treat I love is the selection of funky adult beverages to make your day a bit more pleasant. I’m partial to the Parnold Almer with sweet tea infused vodka and lemonade, but you really can’t go wrong with options like hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, bloody marys topped with shrimp and celery, or the “S’mores,” a Bailey’s brew with fluffed marshmallow vodka, Ghiradeli hot chocolate, and whipped cream.

During one visit to Jelly, I was meeting up with two Floridian friends who were considering moving up to Denver (check out her post on Jelly Cafe about What Tasty Food). My buddy ordered one of the specials, a fizzy libation that listed a Bing energy drink as one of the ingredients. As it happened, the kitchen had just run out of Bing – but fear not, Jelly sent someone sprinting across the street to a convenience store to grab him another. Now that’s service, folks.

The clear stars of this morning extravaganza are the heaping plates of breakfast delight that make it nearly impossible to settle on just one platter. There are temptress dishes like french toast stuffed with bananas and cream cheese, mini sliders stacked thick with pepper pesto sausage frittatas, and bacon pancakes – but I’m loyal to a trio of this restaurant’s finest meals.

The sweet potato hash was the first thing I ever sampled at Jelly Café. The overflowing plate presented to me was loaded with crumbly Mexican chorizo, onions, celery, roasted poblano pepper, cubed sweet potatoes, and red skinned potatoes – all topped with two eggs, toast, and fruity jelly. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, and it’s absolutely amazing.

My second favorite dish is the roasted turkey hash piled high with shredded lean turkey, tender chopped apple, onion, red potatoes, and a sprinkling of tarragon. It’s like a Thanksgiving feast in breakfast form. The third best plate was a more recent discovery, the salmon benedict with peasant potatoes. I had never tried poached eggs before, but Jelly Café converted me into a fan. They serve two poached eggs draped over a perfectly pink filet of seared salmon balanced on artisan sourdough. The entire creation is slathered in their signature dill cream cheese hollandaise – perfection.

Their corned beef hash also deserves an honorable mention for its perfect balance of savory meat and sweet caramelized onion. Really, anything you can fork into your mouth will treat you well.

I hear there’s also a lunch menu – but I’ve never quite made it past the breakfast. 

Need more Jelly? You can connect with them through Facebook,
follow them on Twitter, and check out other satisfied diners’ rave reviews on Yelp!

Starting a day of skiing in Vail, Colorado with a big breakfast from The Little Diner

The trek from Denver to Vail was a harrowing experience packed with white-out snow conditions, icy roads, and the thrill of reuniting with my parents to explore the wintry Colorado mountains. We arrived at the Vail Marriott Mountain Lodge a bit around midnight, and quickly crashed into plush beds.

In the morning, we woke at the crack of dawn to make an early breakfast at The Little Diner, which had attracted my attention with rave Yelp reviews and claims that it offered reasonable prices – a miracle in this expensive ski town. Arriving shortly after the tiny eatery opened, we easily snagged seats along the U-shaped counter, which offers space for less than two dozen hungry patrons at a time. The cozy, open atmosphere of this little shop reminded me of my favorite Cuban eatery in Miami, Ruben’s. The menu offers a variety of early morning grub, from traditional breakfast skillets to sweet and savory crepes. The small cooking space is situated in the middle of the counter area, so you get a meal and an entertaining experience at the same time. My bar stool sat next to the grill, and as soon as I laid my eyes on huge chunks of sizzling hash browns, I knew I had to try them.

As usual, I ordered the traditional breakfast platter with wheat toast, scrambled eggs (with cheese, of course), homemade hash browns, and extra crispy bacon. My father opted for the chunky french toast – another dish that was prepared right under my nose, and smelled delicious. Always the elegant one of the group, my mother was keen on sinking her teeth into a spinach, mushroom, and egg crepe.

Everything tasted outrageous. Not one for fancy plates and food that looks more artistic than edible, I can always appreciate a home-style helping of hearty grub. I surprised myself by demolishing the entire platter, even though I was stuffed full about halfway through. I regret not snagging a bite of the thick french toast that was sitting just inches away from me at the counter, but I definitely enjoyed a small sampling of the healthy crepe my mother ate.

Don’t let the title or cramped quarters of The Little Diner fool you; this restaurant packs big flavor and breakfast satisfaction into generous portions that will leave you struggling to clean your plate. Being early birds, we were amongst the first handful of people to arrive at the joint, but by the time we left, the diner was jam-packed with eager snow bunnies waiting to load up on savory goodness before hitting the slopes. I wouldn’t have asked for a better way to start my first day of skiing in Vail, Colorado.

Getting stoked on the wintry Vail spirit?
Stay tuned for updates on my very first ski lesson, exploring Vail Village, and more!

Sampling spicy Pad Thai in the North Carolina country side

When Marlin offered to take me out for lunch in Brevard, North Carolina, I was expecting to encounter a home-style meal that involved heaps of barbecue sauce, but instead I was surprised with an Asian meal from the local joint, Pad Thai. Situated in a glorified shack on the side of the road, this eatery promised deliciousness from the minute we walked through the doors.

The menu was short and sweet. At the top of the laminated offerings, it listed options for pork, chicken, or tofu to accompany each entree. Next came two sections with different plate suggestions in either rice or noodle varieties. There were less than two dozen items to choose from, and honestly, everything seemed pretty similar save for an ingredient or two.

After much deliberation about whether I wanted broccoli or bamboo, noodles or nice, I ended up going with the most standard item one could order at Pad Thai: the pad thai. I opted for the mild heat level, while my dear, daring Marlin took a chance on the spiciest ‘Thai hot’ option. Our meals were quickly concoted in giant woks, and served with a wedge of lime and a small heap of crumbled nuts.



I couldn’t resist trying a bite of Marlin’s ‘Thai hot’ platter, and initially was disappointed by the lack of heat in my bite – and then it hit me. The sly chefs who prepared this meal tricked me into thinking I was the queen of spice until the slippery oil loaded with the heat from hell spread across my tongue, lips, and coated the entire inside of my mouth. I downed my water in a few seconds flat – and quickly gained a new respect for ‘Thai hot.’

Should I ever pass through Brevard, which I hope I shall, I would definitely stop by Pad Thai for another lunchtime visit. The meal was $6.50, and judging by the way I was clutching my full belly as we walked back to the car, it was well worth the price.

Click here to check out my Yelp review on Pad Thai.