The Elena Ruz

Turkey, strawberry jam, and cream cheese? I first heard of the Elena Ruz in the sandwich issue of Saveur Magazine (April 2011).  My gut reaction was, "gross," but my cranium was intrigued.  My thoughts went to Habana, the sand between my toes and the crisp smell of coconut-scented suntan lotion in the air.  It must be good.

I never knew about how many amazing Cuban sandwiches there were until I read this thread on Chow.  Many of their sandiches are also rolled up and called bocaditos.  They seem to have much of the same custom as the British with tea, only the Cubans do it with coffee.

The Elena Ruz itself has it roots in some conflicting and varied histories.  One such story is that was invented by Babe Rush's wife while he was playing baseball in Cuba.  She asked a waiter at the Hotel Nacional in Havana to prepare her a sandwich that her grandmother used to make.

Another origin revolves around a once popular restaurant in Habana called El Carmelo, located in the area of Vedado at Twenty-third and G Streets. Some people it was an American patron who frequented the during the years of 1945 and 1948. The rumor was that Elena's last name was Rush, and was thus pronounced Ruz.

I think the most interesting history revolves around a young Cuban socialite named Elena Ruz Valdez-Faulli, a relative of Fidel and Raul Castro (whose mother's maiden name, they claim, is Ruz).  The real Elena Ruz is 101 year young, alive and well and living in, you guessed it, Miami - or according to this article, Costa Rica. 

In any case, the meaty-sweety combination makes this delicious all day long: it could be a hearty breakfast, a light lunch, an afternoon snack, dinner I suppose, or a late night treat.  What it would would be especially adept at would be soaking up Thanksgiving leftovers.


Here is the recipe from Saveur:

  • 1 Cuban roll or brioche bun
  • 2 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
  • 3 oz. sliced turkey breast
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Split roll, spread cream cheese on bottom half, and top with turkey. Spread jam on top half of roll and close sandwich. Heat butter in a 10″ skillet over medium heat; cook sandwich, weighing down with a cast-iron skillet and turning once, until golden brown and heated through, 3–4 minutes. Cut in half, and serve hot.


By all accounts the sandwich is done in a panini-style, and some have the crusts cut off.  Sometimes I don't feel like dragging our panini press out (sometimes, like ever) and so here is my more approachable, everyday adaptation:

Take 1 English Muffin, split and toast it.  Spread your Cream Cheese on thick, like a bagel in NY.  Add a large dollop of Strawberry jam.  Fold 2-3 slices of Turkey on top.  Enjoy!



Authordavid koch