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~My Cheesy Corned-Beef on Rye Reuben Casserole~

IMG_0724I cook corned beef regularly -- three-four times a year.  It's always available at our local Sam's Club, and it has a long shelf-life too, meaning the expiration date is often a month or more out on the calendar.  I always buy two and I always cook two.  After discarding the seasoning packets, I cook them my way, slowly in the crockpot, in a tomato mixture laced with aromatic allspice, cinnamon and cloves.  When done, I cover the tops with brown sugar and bake them in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes until the sugar crust is bubbly and caramelizing.  It is amazing.  

6a0120a8551282970b0240a44ada52200cMy brown-sugar-crusted corned beef sandwiches served on my homemade bread machine caraway-seeded rye bread have, literally, been described by many as "the best corned beef sandwich you'll ever eat".  That said, I typically don't serve them Rueben-style (with the 'kraut).  We two prefer to eat ours made grilled-cheese-style with a big scoop of Russian- or Thousand Islands-dressed potato salad or cole slaw to the side.

Meet my amazing sugar-crusted corned beef brisket:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4740b87200dWhat does "corned" mean & what is a corned beef brisket?

6a0120a8551282970b0240a44ab822200cA bit about corned beef:  Corned beef is beef brisket that has been brine-cured in a solution of salt and water typically used for pickling or preserving food.  Brisket is the cut of beef taken from the breast section under the first five ribs.  It is sold without the bone and divided into two sections.  The flat-cut has minimal fat and is more expensive than the more flavorful point-cut. 

Brisket requires long, slow cooking and is best when braised.  The term "corned" comes from the English use of the verb "corn", meaning: a process in which small particles, such as grains of salt have been added to liquid.  Two types of corned beef are available and depend upon the butcher and/or the region.  Old-fashioned corned beef is grayish-pink in color and very salty.  New-style, the kind that is vacuum-sealed that most of us purchase, has less salt and is a bright rosy red.

About my cheesy corn-beef on rye Reuben-style casserole:

IMG_0691My husband loves a good Reuben sandwich.  When sitting in a real-deal deli, besides a bowl of matzo-ball soup, I don't recall him EVER ordering anything other than a Reuben.  That said, I never expected he would like a Reuben casserole.  It's one of the few times I've been wrong, and, after making one for the first time three-fours years ago, I regret having waited so long.  Recipes don't vary too much, some folks use pastrami (pastrami is a corned and smoked brisket, corned beef is a corned and simmer-cooked brisket), so, feel free to make that substitution.  As for the bread, any nice light or dark rye bread will work fine.  That said, my recipe is "a cut above" in that it is made with homemade corned beef and homemade rye bread.  Eat your heart out.

IMG_0607For the casserole assembly:

6  slices caraway-seeded rye bread, (12 ounces) preferably home-baked

1  pound thinly-sliced corned beef, preferably home-cooked, divided in half

1  pound bag sauerkraut, rinsed and well-drained

1  pound julienne of thinly-sliced imported Swiss cheese, divided in half 

2  teaspoons caraway seeds, divided in half

1/2  cup dill pickle relish

IMG_0638For the drizzly wet mixture:

1  cup milk

3  large eggs, lightly beaten

6  tablespoons Russian dressing, preferably homemade

1/4  cup whole-grain mustard

IMG_0643~ Step 1. Whisk all ingredients together in a 2-cup measuring container and set aside.

IMG_0614 IMG_0614 IMG_0614 IMG_0614 IMG_0614 IMG_0614 IMG_0614 IMG_0614 IMG_0614 IMG_0614~Step 2.  Spray an 11" x 7" x 2" casserole with no-stick cooking spray.  Cut and arrange four slices of the bread in the bottom of casserole.  Layer 1/2 of the corned beef atop the bread, followed by the sauerkraut, pickle relish and 1 teaspoon of the caraway seeds.  Scatter 1/2 of the Swiss cheese over the top of the sauerkraut layer.  Top with the remaining 1/2 of the corned beef.  Gently, but firmly, press down on the surface to compact it a bit.  Top with the remaining 1/2 of the Swiss cheese and 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds.

IMG_0646 IMG_0646 IMG_0646~ Step 2.  Using a back and forth motion, slowly, and in a thin stream, drizzle the milk mixture over the surface of the casserole, in order to allow the liquid adequate time to filter down through the nooks and crannies.

IMG_0658 IMG_0658 IMG_0658~Step 3.  Tear the remaining 2 slices of bread into pieces and place it in a medium-capacity food processor.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process to crumbs.  Scatter the crumbs evenly over the surface of casserole.  At this point, I like to set the casserole aside for about 30-60 minutes (or longer if I have the time), to give the bread at the bottom time to soak up the liquid.  Cover with foil and bake on center rack of preheated 325° oven 45-50 minutes.  Remove the foil for and continue to bake 5-10 minutes, until the bread crumbs on the top are golden and crisp (watch them carefully so they don't burn).  Remove from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minutes prior to serving.

Enjoy eating a Rueben sandwich w/a knife & fork: 

IMG_0739My Cheesy Corned-Beef on Rye Reuben Casserole:  Recipe yields 8-10 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small colander; 2-cup measuring container; fork; 11" x 7" x 2" casserole; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0240a44ab00e200cCook's Note: While I can make two corned beef in my crockpot casserole, in one big pot on the stovetop, in three hours, I can make three corned beef:  one for our favorite sandwiches, one for my Reuben casserole, and, one to cube and freeze in three, 1-pound packages, which, is enough to make three hearty corned beef hash breakfasts at a later date. Check out my simple recipe for ~ The Lazy Lady's Corned Beef Hash ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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