The Fresh Loaf

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Cubano Sandwich with Duck Carnitas

GSnyde's picture

Cubano Sandwich with Duck Carnitas

Recipe ideas come from a variety of inspirations.  I love Carnitas.  I love Duck Confit.  I love Cubano sandwiches.  I recently had an excellent—if non-traditional—Cubano sandwich that had spicy pulled pork (with Chiles and Coriander) in place of the traditional sliced roast pork.  I happened to have some crushed Coriander seed left over from Pastrami rub.  I looked at a bunch of recipes for Carnitas and Cuban-style pork, and went from there.

The result is a semi-hot, complexly spicy and delicious, moist but crispy, pulled duck (yes, David, I know…they quack loudly if you pull too hard).  The balance of spices is inspired (modesty aside)—you can taste each spice but they meld nicely.  It made a wondrous Cubano Sandwich, with Gruyere, sliced Kosher dills and homemade Chipotle–Lime Sauce, all on a home-made Po-Boy Roll (recipe below).


6 Duck Legs

Kosher Salt

Fresh ground Black Pepper

½ tsp Chile Powder

1 dried Ancho Chile, seeded and minced

2 dried Chipotle Chiles, seeded and minced (or 1 or 3, for less or more heat)

¼ tsp ground Cumin

1 tsp dried Oregano

2 Bay Leaves, broken in half

2 tsp crushed Coriander Seeds

½ tsp crushed Anise Seeds

4 Cloves Garlic, sliced

4-6 oz. Chicken Stock, hot

Juice of 2 Mexican Limes



Three to twelve hours before cooking, wash and dry the duck legs and sprinkle them well with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate.

Pre-heat oven to 450 F. 

Mix up the spices listed above from Chile Powder to Anise seeds.  Lightly oil a heavy pot or Dutch Oven that will fit the duck legs in a single layer fairly tightly.  Add the duck legs and roast for 1 ¼ hours, turning them mid-way.

Remove the legs to a plate and spoon out all but a thin layer of the rendered fat.  Pour an ounce or so of the hot stock into the pot and scrape loose the stuff at the bottom of the pot.  Return the legs to the pot and sprinkle with the spice mix, lime juice and garlic slices.  Pour the stock into the pot until the legs are about 2/3 covered.

Return the pot to the oven, uncovered.  Lower temperature to 400 F.  Braise for two hours or until most, but not all, of the liquid is gone, turning the legs once or twice and basting every 20-30 minutes.  The legs should be nicely browned and very tender. [Note: during this stage, if you need the oven—say, to bake some bread—the pot can be moved to the stove on simmer and covered].

Remove the pot from the oven and remove the legs to a plate.  With a slotted spoon, remove most of the solids (garlic, bay, chile and seeds).   When the legs have cooled, remove the bones (and skin and fat if you like) and shred the meat into rough shreds. 

Return the shredded meat to the pot, stir to moisten, and return to the oven.  Reduce heat to 350 F.  Roast for 45-60 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally, until there is no liquid remaining but the meat is still moist.

The Rolls

And here’s the recipe for the Two-Starter Po-boy Rolls, adapted from a recipe by  Bernard Clayton, brought to my attention by  ehanner (  I thought adding two pre-ferments (a poolish and a levain, as in proth5’s Bear-guettes) might enhance the flavor.  I honestly can’t say it made a big difference, but the rolls were excellent—crispy crust and soft innards.

Mixed Starter Po-Boy Rolls


¼ tsp Instant Yeast

2 oz. Water room temp

2 oz. AP Flour


½ oz. Active Starter

2 oz. Water

2 oz. AP Flour

Main Dough:

1 ½ tsp Instant Yeast

2 Tbsp Nonfat Dry Milk

1 Tbsp Sugar

1 Tbsp Salt

20 ½  oz. AP Flour (divided)

12 oz. Warm Water (100 F)



1 Tbsp Butter (room temp)

1 Tbsp. Cold Water


Mix the levain and the poolish 12 hours ahead.

Mix together 10 oz. with the flour, and the yeast, dry milk, sugar and salt.

Mix the levain, polish, and butter into the warm water and add to dry ingredients.  Mix well (2 min with beater blade). Switch to dough hook and add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Add additional flour if needed to get to a shaggy elastic but not sticky mass. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.

Knead on speed 2 for 10 minutes. Dough should clean sides of the bowl, adjust flour accordingly.

Turn out into a lightly oiled bowl with at least 2-1/2 times the capacity and cover. Let rise until doubled (1-1-1/4 hrs).

Punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead briefly to degas. Divide into 4 pieces. Pre-shape into a loose rectangle and cover loosely, rest 10 minutes.

Shape using baguette technique.  Seal the seam and ends.  Roll and stretch to desired length and place on parchment lined sheet.  Cover loosely with saran and proof for 45-60 minutes.  The dough should double easily in 45 min.

Pre-heat oven to 400F.
 When proofed, brush dough with cold water, slash, steam oven and bake for 35 Minutes.  Rotate half way through for even color.  Bake to a golden brown (25-30 Minutes).  Cool on a rack.




Franko's picture

Hi Glenn,

Your Cubanos look and sound amazing! Using duck carnitas for the filling is a truly inspired take on this classic sandwich, and the Po-Boys couldn't look better. Great post and recipes, thanks Glenn! I'll have to print this one out and put it next your excellent braised lentil recipe in my hardcover recipe collection. Between you and David I'm amassing quite a collection of the Snyder clan recipes. Lucky me! :^) 


GSnyde's picture

I'm happy to know that you are adding this recipe to your collection. It's very yummy, and I'm pleased with this first attempt. But, having had duck sandwiches again last night (this time with guacamole), I am--of course--thinking about ways to improve the recipe.

Two things come to mind: first, the spiciness does repress the flavor of the duck meat. I might try it with less Chipotle in the braise and then use a spicier sauce on the sandwich. Second, a touch of smoke might be good; I think I'll try barbecuing the duck with some mild smoking chips before braising.

I hope you try this recipe and tell us about it. Thanks.


Franko's picture

A little smoke sounds like a great idea Glenn. Although I've yet to smoke any duck, from what I've learned smoking other birds they seem to sponge up the smoke much quicker than pork or beef. Your idea of using a mild smoke sounds like the way to go to preserve the duck flavour. Let us know how it goes and I'll be sure to share any results of my own tries with your recipe on this thread. 


dmsnyder's picture

Inspired, indeed!


GSnyde's picture


As a duck-lover, you really should try this.

Thanks for the comment.


SylviaH's picture

You said you didn't notice the flavor of the added poolish.  "I apologize Glen" I really need to get more sleep..reading over my post..the poolish can be used for it's added strenght and extensibility along with a levain in a highly hydrated dough like the baguette which can benefit from the strenght and extensibility from an added poolish.  A poolish is nice to use for adding strength and flavor.. I have been using an very long cool 18 hour one with some nice flavor coming through..smells wonderful.  

What a beautifully prepared duck for your cubano's.  What a delicious looking duck cubano :)  

Your rolls are lovely with the slashing and very nice crumb.  Your sandwich just has me craving..with duck how delicious!

I love a good Cuban sandwich, reading a seeing your blog on the cubano's brings back my first time enjoying one.  My Cuban girlfriend of many years ago introduced me to this little cafe tucked away right in the heart of the famous strip in Las Vegas where a cuban man served the most wonderful cuban sandwiches...I've been hooked ever since  and then there was the hugh bar-b-ques at lake mead with co-workers.   A cuban man pre-pared whole pig buried in the sand with hot coals not to mention my friends homemade cuban tamales cooked in beer..your post is so inspiring!

Edited :) 


GSnyde's picture

I haven't tried the Po-Boy rolls side-by-side--one with pre-ferment and one without.  But from memory, these taste and feel about the same as the ones with straight dough.

I bet this duck preparation would be great in a WFO with declining temperature.

Thanks for the comment.


SylviaH's picture

though I would love to have some of yours in my fried rice today.


dabrownman's picture

would have to arrest you if you did a smoked,  duck carnitas, Cubano sandwich Glenn - just so they could steal your fine sandwich!  In Mexico, duck carnitas are famous and much sought after but they aren't made at all like yours.  Love the Po-Boys too!

Very nice baking - 2 ways

GSnyde's picture


wally's picture

inspired sandwich Glenn!  And a beautiful roll it's served on. 

We have a pizza dough that incorporates poolish, levain and yeast.  The result (IMHO) is too gassy for good thin crust pizza, but for a sub roll, that would be another matter!


GSnyde's picture

These rolls were very airy.  I might try to make them solely with levain some time.

Thanks for the comment, Larry.