One of the easiest ways to satiate your hunger, and one of the tastiest ones too, is the fix-it-quick classic: The Reuben sandwich. This classic New York eat is starting to appear in restaurant and hotel menus all over the States and for a good reason! It is a hearty, gigantic slightly toasted sandwich made with corned beef (or pastrami), Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut on rye bread. It is one of those things that once you’ve tried, you ask yourselves: Where have you been my whole life?
Well, if you are a New Yorker, the chances you haven’t tried a Reuben Sandwich are close to zero. There are so many different restaurants serving it, in fact, that there have been food battles over whose sandwich is the better one, and there is no chance in the world a New Yorker would miss on that!
As for the origin of this staple of Jewish delicatessens, there are many stories that surround it, and you can read all about it and the origin of other America’s favorites, but one thing is for sure: The Reuben Sandwich has grown to be the sandwich stuff of legends!
How to Prepare the Best Reuben Sandwich
Although it is a very quick meal that can be made in as short a time as 5 minutes, there are some particularities that you should bear in mind when preparing a Reuben sandwich.
Heat the meat beforehand!
However, before we get into the preparation of the meat, let us say a word or two about it. As it is commonly known, the Reuben Sandwich consists of corned beef. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with corn, but with salt. See, corned beef is a product that comes from the treatment of the meat with large grained rock salt. These grains are also called “corns” of salt, hence the name. the pinkish color the meat has is largely a result of the nitrates or nitrites, converting the natural myoglobin in beef to nitroso-myoglobin.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
While its canned version was popular during both World Wars, nowadays corned beef is a staple ingredient in dishes like corned beef hash, in sandwiches (including the Reuben), or eaten as it is with chips and pickles.
Whatever you do, make sure you preheat the meat in a frypan. While the meat is still inside, make sure you melt the cheese just enough for it to be oozy.
Drain the sauerkraut!
If you don’t want your sandwich to be all soggy, be sure to drain your sauerkraut off all the excessive juice, and only then mix it with the Russian dressing. You can buy the well-drained canned sauerkraut too. So, remember dry sauerkraut, tasty sandwich!
Replace sauerkraut with coleslaw.
If you face any difficulties finding the sauerkraut, there is no need to panic. You can always use the canned sauerkraut or just go for coleslaw.
Buy a sandwich maker or panini press.
Although the Reuben Sandwich can easily be made in a skillet with the help of a wide metal spatula for pressing it down, now that paninis are so stylish and popular, a great idea would be buying a sandwich maker.
The typical Reuben sandwich is made with rye bread, but you can easily swap it with marble, pumpernickel, or even white bread. But remember, the classic way is the rye way!
The classic way to go about serving this sandwich is with dill pickles (to stay true to the Jewish tradition they have to be kosher). However, this sandwich goes perfectly well with a nice bowl of soup, as well as potato chips or potato salad.
A Step by Step Guide to Preparing a Reuben Sandwich
Although the Reuben sandwich is oftentimes referred to as a “grilled sandwich”, the process of making it includes griddling or frying. This being said, here is a step by step guide to how to prepare the perfect one.
Ingredients for 3 Reuben Sandwiches
6 slices rye bread
1/2 pound thinly sliced corned beef
1 cup well-drained sauerkraut
1/4 pound thinly sliced Swiss cheese
1/2 cup Russian Dressing
The Five Steps to Five Star Reuben
Spread the Russian Dressing on one side of each bread slice.
Heat the meat in a saucepan (you can do it with a slice of the cheese on top).
Layer the corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on 3 of the prepared bread slices and place the other three bread slices over the top of each sandwich.
In a large frying pan over low heat, add a knob of butter and let it melt. Proceed to add the prepared sandwiches and slowly griddle them until golden brown.
Add more butter and gently turn sandwiches and brown the outsides till they become hot and crispy.
Things to Avoid When Preparing a Reuben Sandwich
Before you set off to prepare yourselves a tasty lunch or dinner worthy sandwich, here are some things you should remember.
More is not better
More is not better, or less is more should be your first guide to preparing this sandwich. Even though the very description (or definition, call it what you like) specifically states that it is a large sandwich, gargantuan even, it is for the best if you refrain from piling it up too high.
If you go overboard with the filling, once you take a bite everything will start dripping off and the sandwich will not be just as good. Ok, it will be, but your focus will be on saving all those parts that are falling off and you just don’t want to lose on. J This is why you should keep the filling in balance, and get a harmonious bite.
Eat it in 10 minutes!
The first rule for the best Reuben Sandwich is – you do not talk about the best Reuben Sandwich; The second rule for the best Reuben Sandwich is you either eat it right away or not at all!
Ok, you can wait. But once the bread has absorbed all the dressing and the juices from the sauerkraut, and the melting cheese has turned into a fatty glob, you will be the one to eat the soggy, lukewarm cousin of what was once a great sandwich.
Don’t skip the Russian Dressing
Contrary to popular belief, this dressing wasn’t invented in Russia. In fact, it is a dressing that is unknown in traditional Russian cuisine and was actually invented here, in the States. The birthplace of this dressing is not Mother Russia, but Nashua, New Hampshire, where somewhere in the 1910s, James E. Colburn invented this piquant, reddish dressing.
Although many bloggers and cooks recommend substituting the Russian dressing for the Thousand Island Dressing, we would advise strongly against it. Yes, getting a hold of Russian dressing can be challenging, but simply swapping it with the Thousand Island Dressing isn’t the way to go. Instead, make your own Russian dressing following our recipe below. Horseradish, pimentos, chives and many spices can all be found in Russian dressing recipes, and here is the one we chose for you.
Russian Dressing Recipe:
1/2 cup good-quality mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Preparing this dressing is so straightforward that you don’t even have to buy the bottled one even if you can find it. Simply combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce, horseradish, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt, adjusting the dressing to taste.
You can easily refrigerate and reuse any leftover dressing and use it on fried fish, on an iceberg lettuce wedge, or prepare Eggs Ã la Russe by topping halved hard-cooked eggs with it.
The Reuben Sandwich Varieties
This celebrity among sandwiches, naturally, has many copycats. Some people find them better than the original, and some, just think that calling them Reuben varieties is a blasphemy. Here they are, and you be the judge of whether they are worthy of caring the Reuben name J
The Grouper Reuben. This is a variation that fish fans will certainly enjoy. Naturally, the sunny Florida is the place where most restaurant would offer this Reuben variety on their menus. It is the same rye sandwich that calls for coleslaw instead of sauerkraut, and of course, the corned beef makes way to the grouper. Whether you find this version tasty or fishy, it’s up to you, but its growing popularity tells us this is going to become a trend on its own!
The Rachel. This Reuben Sandwich variety has become so popular that it even has its own sub-varieties. Sauerkraut makes room for coleslaw yet again, and the corned beef is swapped with pastrami. The sub-variety, on the other hand, swaps the pastrami for turkey, and it is arguably the version that made the Rachel popular. In fact, there is a scene in one of the iconic movies When Harry Met Sally, where Harry is eating a classic Reuben sandwich, whereas Sally is eating a Rachel. Other names for the Rachel include “Georgia Reuben” and “California Reuben”, and usually these swap the Russian dressing with either barbecue sauce or French dressing.
Montreal Reuben. When corned beef gets replaced by Montreal-style smoked meat, the result is an equally tasty sandwich that goes by the name of Montreal Reuben.
Walleye Reuben. Yet another version that substitutes meat for fish, only this time the fish is the walleye, Sander vitreus, the Minnesota state fish. Naturally, this version of the sandwich is eaten mainly in Minnesota and for some reason, Ohio too.
There is no other meal that can save the day like a Reuben sandwich! A quick and easy, hearty and satiating meal that has been a favorite for many preceding generations and hopefully will remain a favorite for generations to come.