I grew up in a rural area, and the state fair was pretty far away. Most years the county or 4-H fair was where I got my fix for funnel cakes and sheep shit. The theme is about the same, but the scale much smaller and the food selection was less diverse.
So when the State Fair of Texas kicked off Friday, I was more than excited to check it out. Not for the kraut balls, fried Oreos and other dishes compared to feces from Hasbro toys, but for the other foods that haven't gotten a deluge of press this year.
Top honors? The Cuban sandwich at Taste of Cuba. Issac Rousso's gotten a lot of attention for fried S'mores Pop Tarts and deep fried salsa, and while he may love the publicity his fried creations bring him, authentic Cuban cooking is his real passion. Rousso produces the best version of the sandwich I've had since coming to Dallas, and it rivals all other Cubans I've eaten as well.
Rousso's secret is no different than anyone else who produces a good product: He gets high-quality ingredients and doesn't fuck them up. He orders a thinly-shaved roast pork from Miami and uses wet ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles. For a condiment he makes his own mojo sauce, with lots of citrus instead of mayo or mustard. Then, while grilling, he uses butter sparingly and hits the press hard.
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The results are a thin, intensely pressed sandwich that isn't the slightest bit greasy. The bread is crisp and flaky and the mojo complements the pork instead of arguing with it like mustard sometimes can. It's a shame that Dallas' potentially best Cuban sandwich is only available three weeks a year; Rousso runs a catering company when he's not working the fair.
This isn't the first time City of Ate has taken a close look at Cubans. Steven Doyle fell in love with Rousso's sammich last fall, claiming it was much better than a rival sandwich from Caribbean Cafe, and Chris Meesey penned a story on the history of the sandwich that involves anything but the country of Cuba itself.
There are more shots of Rousso constructing a Cuban on our State Fair Of Texas Foods Slide Show over here. where we also compiled shots of everything we could find that wasn't fried.