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~ Deli Corned Beef on Swirl with Sauerkraut & Swiss ~

IMG_3673The Reuben sandwich.  I crave one once or twice a year.  And when I do, I don't waste time baking homemade rye bread, slow-cooking corned beef, long-simmering sauerkraut, or, whisking salad dressing.  I don't try to save time by ordering delivery or take out either -- I don't live anywhere close to a NY-style deli that can begin to make this sandwich the way I like it.  I take the 10-minute drive to the grocery store, pick up the ingredients and pass through the express checkout.  Store-bought everything is fine.  In about 45-minutes, including the drive time, I am eating my sandwich -- heaped with thin folds of meat and sloppy with sauerkraut, gooey cheese and creamy dressing on butter-crisped bread -- and I don't end up with a lot of leftover anything.  

When it comes to the combination of complex, briney flavors people expect on a Reuben, it's best to stick to simple, straight-forward, and most-importantly:  familiar.

IMG_3700The classic Reuben sandwich consists of rye bread, Swiss cheese, thinly sliced/shaved corned beef, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. The Rachel sandwich is a variation that substitutes pastrami for the corned beef, and, Thousand-Island-dressed-coleslaw for the sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Someone, somewhere, decided turkey would be a viable substitute for corned beef or pastrami when making a Rachel, so, if turkey is your thing, order your Rachel that way.

6a0120a8551282970b015391ee84b6970bAs you know, I usually like to do a little research about the history of the recipes I share with you.  I thought the story behind the classic Reuben would be interesting and straight-forward: Most likely named after someone named Reuben who accidentally put some sauerkraut on a corned beef sandwich and made history.  I was wrong. Official claim to the name of this sandwich has been in dispute for 90+ years. In my opinion, two claims seem to have some share in its name, but I lean towards Claim to Fame #1. You be your own judge and jury:

Claim to Fame #1:  Reuben Kulakofsky, a Lithuanian grocer from Omaha created a sandwich consisting of corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on Russian rye bread for his poker buddies.  From 1920-1935, "the committee" as they called themselves, played weekly poker at The Blackstone Hotel.  The hotel's owner, Charles Schimmel was a member of the group. Schimmel put the sandwich on the hotel's lunch menu and named if after its creator, "Reuben". In 1956, Fern Snider, a former waitress at the Blackstone entered "The Reuben" in a national sandwich competition and she won.  I, for one, am grateful to Fern for doing that.

Claim to Fame #2:  Arnold Reuben, a German owner of Reuben's Delicatessen in New York City, invented the "Reuben's Special" in 1914. Late one night, a leading lady and close friend of Charlie Chaplin came into the deli and said, "Reuben, please make me a huge sandwich.  I'm so hungry I could eat a brick." The sandwich he presented to her consisted of:  rye bread, Virginia ham, roast turkey, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and his own house-made Russian dressing.  Upon tasting it, the lady said, "Reuben, this is the best sandwich I ever ate.  You should call it the Annette Seelos Special."  Reuben replied, "The hell I will, I'm calling it the Reuben's Special".

IMG_3592A bit about sauerkraut:  Although sauerkraut (German for "sour cabbage") is thought of as a German invention, Chinese laborers building The Great Wall of China over 2,000 years ago ate it as standard fare.  Chinese sauerkraut, made from shredded cabbage fermented in rice wine, eventually found its way to Europe, where the Germans and Alsatians adopted it as a favorite staple. Today's sauerkraut is made in the same manner: by combining shredded cabbage, salt and some spices, then allowing the mixture to ferment.  It is packaged in jars and cans and is found in almost every supermarket.  The best sauerkraut is sold by the pound in delicatessens, as well as in the refrigerated section of grocery stores, where it is packaged in plastic bags.  All sauerkraut should be rinsed in cold water before being served as a side-dish, being cooked in casseroles, or, topping sandwiches.

IMG_3628For each deli-style sandwich:

2  slices Pepperidge Farm swirl bread (rye and pumpernickel)

2  tablespoons salted butter

4 ounces shredded Danish Havarti cheese, or Swiss cheese

6  ounces thin-sliced corned beef

4  ounces sauerkraut 

4  teaspoons Russian dressing

IMG_3608For 1 pound (2 cups) sauerkraut:

1  pound deli-style sauerkraut

1/2  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

4 tablespoons salted butter (1/2 stick butter)

1/2  teaspoon caraway seeds

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

IMG_3596For 1 1/2 cups "Russian" Dressing:

IMG_3599Thousand Islands and Russian dressings are similar, with Russian dressing having a spicy edge.  To mimic it:

3/4  cup 1000 Island Dressing

1/2  cup Heinz chili sauce

1  tablespoon prepared, white horseradish

IMG_3602Stir dressing, chili sauce & horseradish together and set aside while preparing sauerkraut and sandwiches.  Refrigerate leftovers.

IMG_3610 IMG_3610 IMG_3610 IMG_3610 IMG_3610 IMG_3610~Step 1.  Place the sauerkraut in a colander. Thoroughly rinse it under cold water.  Allow it to drain for about 5 minutes.  In a large skillet, melt butter over low heat.  Stir in the caraway seeds, sea salt and black pepper pepper.  Add the diced onion.  Adjust heat to sauté for 3 minutes.  Add the sauerkraut, give the mixture a thorough stir, and continue to sauté, stirring frequently for 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Note:  Technically, once  taken out of the package, drained, and rinsed, sauerkraut is fully-cooked and ready to eat.  That said, it's awesome when briefly sautéed with some butter, onion and seasonings.  Skip this step and use it "as is', right out of the colander if that is your preference. 

IMG_3632 IMG_3632 IMG_3632 IMG_3632 IMG_3632 IMG_3632~Step 2.  Cut two slices of bread in half to form 4 pieces.  In a 10" nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat.    Add bread to the skillet and increase heat to medium-high, to gently fry, until slices are lightly golden on both sides, 45-60 seconds per side.  Transfer the lightly-toasted bread to a paper towel lined plate. 

IMG_3651 IMG_3651 IMG_3651 IMG_3651 IMG_3651 IMG_3651~Step 3.  Top two of the halves with 2 ounces grated cheese, followed by 3 ounces corned beef, followed by 2 ounces sauerkraut.  Place the untopped halves on top of each to form sandwich halves.  Place on an appropriately-sized baking pan that has been lined with parchment, or, a disposable aluminum broiler pan (the kind with the corrugated bottom).  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven or toaster oven, until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 4 minutes.  Remove from oven, lift the top slice of bread from each half sandwich and drizzle with Russian dressing.  Serve immediately with pickles and potato chips.

Lift up the lids (tops) & drizzle w/Russian dressing:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09ed603d970dIndulge in crunchy, cheesy, meaty, briny brilliance:

IMG_3718Deli Corned Beef on Swirl with Sauerkraut & Swiss:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups Russian dressing, 2 cups sauerkraut, and, instructions to make as many Reuben sandwiches as you want to make.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; spoon; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides, or large skillet; large spoon; hand-held box grater; 10" nonstick skillet; paper towels; kitchen scale (optional but helpful); appropriately-sized baking pan; parchment paper or toaster-oven sized disposable aluminum broiler pan

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d26416b1970c-800wiCook's Note: I put my ~ Pretty in Pink:  Thousand Island Dressing ~ on deli-style and my own oven-roasted chicken and turkey sandwiches all the time.  To use it in a Rachel Sandwich made with turkey or pastrami, simply use it to dress a bag of store-bought coleslaw mix -- it's truly yummy.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2024)


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