Corned Beef's Finest Hour
Arnold Reuben (1883-1970), opened a deli in
The next scenario takes place somewhere between 1920 and 1935, or in the year 1955, again, depending on whom you ask. Supposedly a grocer by the name of Reuben Kay created a sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on rye bread, during a weekly poker game in
In yet another twist in the ontological saga of the Reuben, other Nebraskans claim the sandwich was invented by a grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky in
And if that’s not confusing enough, a final yarn is that a waitress of the Blackstone Inn, whose employer’s father played poker with Reuben Kay, entered the sandwich in a sandwich contest and won. Supposedly her boss, a trained chef, tweaked Kay’s recipe by adding Russian dressing, replacing the rye bread with pumpernickel, and then buttering and grilling the bread.
Whatever its origins the Reuben is a classic sandwich and an American favorite. The current recipe includes corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, (although some still use cole slaw), and Russian dressing on rye bread, with the option of buttering and toasting/grilling the bread.
Corned beef usually comes from the brisket. The brisket is a cut taken from the breast section. It is rather tough and requires long, slow cooking. It is best when braised. Corned beef is made by curing it in a seasoned brine. Curing refers to various procedures employed primarily to preserve foods, but also add flavor. Foods can be cured with smoke, salt, or a brine. A basic brine is a mixture of water and salt but customarily, as in corned beef, the mixture will also include seasonings to enhance flavor. The term “corned” has nothing to do with corn (on the cob). “Corn” is an English word for any small particle. Hence, it is derived from the “corns” of salt used to preserve meats.
Russian dressing is so named because it originally contained caviar. Putting real Russian caviar in salad dressing is like mixing a bottle of top notch
3 oz. mayonnaise
1 oz. ketchup
1 oz. minced onions or chives
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Half teaspoon paprika
Chopped parsley or dill to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
OK let’s make a Reuben. Once again, like seemingly everything else in the culinary world, there are a number of possibilities. First you must decide whether you want the bread toasted and/or the cheese melted. If not, it’s pretty straightforward: Simply pile whatever amount of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on your rye bread and dig in. If you want just the bread toasted but nothing else heated, place it in a toaster, the oven, or on a grill. The latter two options give you the choice of buttering it first. Or, if you’d like the cheese melted, place the buttered bread, topped with the cheese into an oven and toast the bread and melt the cheese concurrently, then add the remaining ingredients. If you want the entire sandwich heated take two slices of bread, build each half, and then place them into an oven. Another option is to compile the entire sandwich first and place it on a griddle. Press it down with a sandwich press or a heavy skillet and flip it when the first side is browned. Or, the ultimate method would be to use a panini press. A panini is basically a toasted sandwich. A panini press is two grills connected by a hinge. Place the sandwich on the bottom grill and close the upper grill on top of it. This allows both sides to be grilled simultaneously. Any way you slice it, you’ll have a great sandwich.