These simple Reuben Sandwiches came about because of a bad week. This was a rough week for me personally, starting with a killer migraine that nearly left me for dead for about 3 days, then a stomach bug that helped me redefine the word “dehydration.” I had great help in the kitchen throughout the week–one of the clear advantages to teaching my kids to cook!
Last night, however, I was back on duty. I couldn’t think of anything that sounded remotely good to eat, let alone fix. At the very last moment, just seconds before picking up the phone to dial for pizza delivery, I spied a ziplock bag of Dave’s homemade sauerkraut in the deep freeze. At that moment I KNEW what we needed to eat: Reuben sandwiches.
I did have to run out to the grocery store because I lacked some of the necessary ingredients, but it was well worth the trip. These are very easy to make, but they pack a huge amount of flavor. They really are more of a method than a recipe.
Things you’ll need to make these Reuben Sandwiches:
- Rye bread — I used Pumpernickel rye because I like dark breads. You can also use Jewish rye or any other kind of rye that is your favorite
- Sauerkraut, drained well — I used my husband’s homemade kraut, but a can or jar from the store would have worked just fine
- Swiss cheese, sliced — some boys in my home don’t like swiss cheese. These sandwiches really work with just about any kind of cheese, but I think that the Reuben flavor requires Swiss
- Corned beef, thinly sliced — actually, we ended up with pastrami and smoked turkey in addition to the corned beef. Not all of us like corned beef, so we found other meats that worked just as well
- Mayonnaise — we actually used horseradish sauce last night because we LOVE horseradish. I’d recommend some kind of flavored mayo to jazz things up a bit. Another option for a more traditional flavor would be to spread some 1000 Island dressing on the bread
- Butter, spread thinly on the side of the bread that will be against the pan
Start by assembling the ingredients on the counter. Preheat a heavy skillet (I used my flat, cast iron fajita skillet) on a medium low burner. The trick here is to keep the skillet temperature low enough that it toasts the bread and melts the insides nicely without scorching the buttered bread.
Butter one side of each slice of bread and place, buttered side down, on the skillet. Smear a little mayo or horseradish sauce on the top of each slice of bread. Then layer swiss cheese, sliced meat, sauerkraut, and another piece of swiss cheese. Smear some more mayo or flavored sauce onto another slice of buttered bread and place that, buttered side out, on top of the sandwich.
Once you see that the bread on the skillet is starting to brown, very carefully flip the entire sandwich. We ended up flipping each sandwich a couple of times so that bread got nicely browned and crusty and the innards were warmed and melty. These sandwiches just aren’t as good when they’re burned.
I served these sandwiches with our favorite cucumber salad out on the front porch as we watched the thunderstorms roll in. Delicious!
I just have to add that making the perfect Reuben Sandwich has been a lifelong pursuit for me. I ate my first Reuben in the train station in downtown Chicago after riding Amtrak from Arizona with my mom and siblings. I was eleven years old and ordering the Reuben was a bold adventure in eating for me. The sandwich was just amazing and I’ve been searching for that same flavor and perfect blend of melted cheese and crunchy kraut for many, many years. Last night, I came close….very close.
2010 Note: I now own a sandwich press. Making our Reubens in that sandwich press takes a lot of mess and hassle out of the process and I highly recommend it! Sometimes the sandwich presses are called panini presses.