Bienvenidos Versailles Cubano Pizza!

It’s a community thing. But who gets the croqueta is each friend for themself!

Are you picking up what we’re putting down?  If it’s a croqueta on your Versailles Cubano Pizza then you have the right idea!  So does Chef Schwartz.

It’s love at first bite as Michael makes Miami’s most iconic sandwich open-faced for a limited time only featuring Versailles house roasted pork and glazed ham, bread and butter pickles, mustard sauce, fontina and gruyère cheeses, and finished with a Versailles croqueta!  From Monday, January 14 until Valentine’s Thursday, February 14, find this pie in the sky collab as a special at all South Florida locations of Harry’s Pizzeria and Genuine Pizza for $16.  It’s the first time this local legend has done a collaborative pizza highlighting one of their specialty menu items, so we are especially honored and excited to have this unique opportunity… and to share it with all of you!

Since 1971 the original Calle Ocho location of Versailles, the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant, has been a cornerstone of the Little Havana neighborhood and a community gathering place for conversation whether over a cafecito or its famous Cuban sandwich, “El Cubano”.   Almost 50 years later, this culinary icon has achieved ubiquitous global recognition as a symbol of Miami’s diverse cultural identity and the unique food traditions that have developed as a result.

Click to watch how it’s made, to the tunes of Palo!

“I’ve been a fan of Versailles since moving to Miami in the early ‘90s and as a chef I have a keen appreciation for the Valls family’s commitment to keeping it simple, doing things right, and bringing the community together,” Michael says. “We love to get creative with topping combinations on our pizzas, and taking this one for a spin is a long time coming! We are so grateful to everyone at Versailles for not only entrusting us with these unique ingredients, but their genuine enthusiasm in having fun with the formula. We think the result tastes pretty great and is something we can all gather around and share – if there’s any left!”

Inspired by this memorable combination hot-pressed inside fluffy, crispy Cuban bread, Chef Schwartz is sourcing the roast pork and glazed ham from the Versailles kitchen to honor the original recipe. With layers of mustard sauce, bread and butter pickles, and the combination of fontina and gruyère cheeses to balance melt and flavor, each pie is also topped with one of its famous, mouthwatering croquetas to break open and enjoy with each slice.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Harry’s Pizzeria and Genuine Pizza on this fun and delicious collaboration,” says Versailles owner Nicole Valls. “Our family is a huge admirer of Chef Schwartz and all he has done for the Miami food scene, and we are excited to have everyone taste this new spin on Miami’s iconic dish.”

Beginning Monday, January 14 through Thursday, February 14, the Versailles Cubano Pizza will be available all day long for $16 during regular business hours for dine in, takeout and delivery at all South Florida locations of the James Beard Award-winner’s casual pizza restaurant, including Miami Design District, Downtown Dadeland, Coconut Grove and Aventura Mall. For the restaurant nearest you visit genuinepizza.com/locations.

With whom would you like to share a Cubano Pizza? Let us know by joining the conversation on social media #genuinecubano and follow along for giveaway news, events and more @chefmschwartz, @harryspizzeria, @genuinepizza and @versaillesmiami.

Culinary Director Brad Herron with Harry’s Pizzeria Design District kitchen manager Homer Perez.  Big thanks to these guys for making test pizzas during a busy lunch service. Getting it done, per usual!

Chef at Home: Daniel Ramirez’s Family Box

Cuban roots run deep in Miami, especially when it comes to lechón. The ultimate labor of love, a roast pig isn’t just something delicious to gather around the table and enjoy, but to make together.  And how you make your chanchito defines who you are and where you come from.  Pig connects generations; it’s the stuff traditions are made of.  Like the best traditional dishes, the recipe for Harry’s Pizzeria chef de cuisine Danny Ramirez’s roast pig can’t be found in a cookbook.  It’s not even written on paper.  His lechón is Abuelito’s, passed down from the master himself and perfected over time.

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“My grandfather (my mom’s dad) would kill me if he knew I put ginger in here,” Danny laughed as he ladled a fresh batch of mojo over a whole pig in the back of Harry’s Pizzeria, selected from Mary’s Ranch in Hialeah earlier that morning and still warm from the kill. Using a paring knife, the chef had made several cuts into the flesh, into which he inserted whole cloves of garlic.  Now the fragrant citrus marinade was seeping in, tenderizing the meat for its 6-hour roast the following day in the box, the ultimate in slow cooking techniques.

Roast pig is an excellent lens through which to illuminate the difference in cuisines across cultures. Esther, one of Harry’s prep cooks, was all smiles sneaking looks our way as she worked on her pizza dough.  She asked where the red chili flakes were for the cochon. Danny laughed, “I’m not Creole, baby!”

December 24th and the 31st are the big pig occasions in the Cuban home, and in Danny’s family, we’re not talking Caja China.  Back in the day, Abuelo had a pit with cinder blocks and spit-roasted over guava wood and charcoal.  His friends would come in shifts, in the morning and then afternoon, watching over it.

“My brother and cousins weren’t really that into it, but I was,” Danny continues. “I was about nine or 10 when I think I first realized this was cool. Let’s just play in the backyard so we can chill with Abuelo’, I’d say. He would get the pigs live, and dress them in the backyard. I remember the whole house would smell like marinating pig. It would sit on a big sheet tray on the dining room table, covered with banana leaves and that was it.”

Abuelo moved to Miami in 1968.  As the family, grew it was harder to tend to this spit set up, which requires a lot of work and attention. About 11 years ago, things changed when the master felt his understudy was ready. “Remember that bed frame?” Abuelo asked. “I’m going to build this for you. I’m gonna build you a box. ”  It was about 5 or 6 years ago when Danny first led a roast, and he nailed it.  “I remember the shoulder just falling away from the bone, it was so tender.”

Before each pig roast there is expectation.  Will it be as good as the last time?  You kind of just have to just dive in, do what you know and what you’ve been taught to get it ready, and enjoy the element of surprise… even make it your own.  And Danny did just that.  After the mojo was applied, the 46 pound pig was set into a large cooler overnight to marinate.

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The chef was up at 6:30 a.m. the next day, firing up the coals and preparing the pig for the roast.  The chef mixed kosher salt and olive oil into a thick paste, which is lathered and massaged onto the pig before it is tied up and put on the grates. Abuelo was there to serve as sous chef, while his grandson Jacob napped on the living room couch inside, resting up for his call of duty later on.  Danny had taken him fishing the weekend before and he was looking forward to hanging out with daddy again and have another boy’s day, this time to learn how to roast a pig and continue the family tradition.  Daughter Lia, the eldest and with the personality to match, was out of town or she would have been first in line up to the task.  For 6 hours, the three generations tended to the box, checking the temperature and adjusting the rig accordingly by raising and lowering the grates over the embers with specially fitted chains. Danny likes to cook it a little longer, slower, and with lower heat.  Abuelo noticed.

After noon, the neighborhood began to roll in and hang out.  Young and old, family and friends, including some genuine chefs, populated picnic tables on the back porch to share stories and enjoy a crisp, sunny Miami afternoon.   There was still work to be done, and now plenty of people to do it.  The spread was epic in its simplicity, with the main event staged on a table of its own next to the box in which it was cooked. The Cypress Room sous chef Mike Beltran offered his skills to break down the beast, partitioning loins, from candy, crunchy skin, and maybe even squirreling away some of the secret tender parts chefs love to hoard.  The ultimate trophies.  There was Danny’s mom’s boiled yucca with onions that had been sautéed in some of the mojo juice, his grandma’s arroz congri or rice mixed with black beans and salt pork for flavor, and yes there was even salad.  Rather there especially was salad, Danny’s contribution and now a special request of his aunt.  “The first time I made the salad, she was like, ‘Oh my god, what did you do to this?” Danny laughs. “Nothing! I just shaved a bunch of vegetables, lemon juice and olive oil. So now it’s always, ‘Are you going to bring salad?!'”

The yard also featured a patch of young banana trees, and with the telltale signs of a flower from some dried outer petals on the ground.  Sure enough, one of the biggest flowers I’d ever seen was ripe for the picking and we got to work on a Filipino delicacy from a cookbook Roel lent me, Memories of Philippine Kitchens.  A spontaneous addition to the meal, and fun activity for the kids.  The Coco Lopez didn’t quite do the coconut milk in the recipe justice, but Danny swore by it with with leftovers.

You may not have the time to invest in a whole pig roast, but the box isn’t necessary for a great Sunday afternoon meal.  Take a page from Danny’s book.

“90 percent of the time we barbecue, it’s churrasco,” he explains. ” I always buy the bigger flank steak, and what they call picana in Brazil.  We make chimmichuri, and my wife Carolyn marinates it with beer and mustard. Her dad showed her how to do it when she was little.  She’s of Colombian and Irish heritage.  We always have sausage… Morcilla. There are roasted veggies.  And of course, a big colorful salad.”