Where for Art Thou Reuben?
My first encounter with a Reuben sandwich was in Las Vegas in the 80’s, where I was first intimidated by the formidable portion control served in restaurants. There was no portion control! I decided my first meal in America indeed should be native, so ordering a Reuben sandwich seemed fitting.
The Reuben sandwich is an American hot sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing, grilled between slices of rye bread although many variants exist. I can remember being struck by the mountainous filling of meat, which volume far exceeded the bread slices four-fold. This was a vast contrast to my school day sandwiches which comprised of 2 slices of multi-grain bread, a thin slice of ham and a slice of shrink-wrapped
plastic processed Kraft cheese – oh dear…. I hasten to think!!
Many claim the fame of the Reuben sandwich’s invention. There are too many stories and variations to know the truth but I quite like the fable of the grocery store owner who played cards late into the night, fixed a “midnight lunch” with what he had available in the kitchen. It sort of rings synonymously with the invention of the original sandwich in 18th century England, where John Montague, Earl of Sandwich, ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, allowing him to continue playing cards while eating.
As a Croque Monsieur has its Croque Madame, the Reuben has its Rachel! This substitutes pastrami or turkey for the corned beef, and coleslaw for the sauerkraut. I discovered that the dressing also has its many variants, mainly being substituted with Russian dressing. I also discovered that the special sauce on a McDonalds Big Mac is AKA thousand island dressing. How come I didn’t know that already? The dressing is sometimes yoghurt based, or sometimes mayonnaise based; I decided to make a mix of the two. Don’t be afraid to use the dressing liberally – this is no health food after all, and the dressing is definitely what makes the Reuben sandwich a Reuben.
I love to use my fake rye bread for this recipe but it also works really well with my flatbread too. I prefer to make it an open sandwich with less bread – but by all means, put a lid on yours if you are hungry!!
Sliced rye bread, toasted
Thinly sliced corned beef or pastrami
Swiss cheese, sliced
Dill pickles for garnish
Sauerkraut, drained well
4 tabs mayonnaise
2 tabs sour cream or yoghurt
2 teas chilli sauce
1 teas horseradish
1 pickled onion, finely minced
salt* & pepper
Dressing: Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
To assemble: Toast the bread and spread with some dressing. Cover with a handful of sliced corned beef and a big handful of sauerkraut on top. Place some Swiss cheese on top and grill until brown and melty. Garnish with a dollop of dressing (yes, be generous) and a sliced dill pickle.
*Go easy on the salt as both sauerkraut and corned beef can be very salty.