The Reuben, a documentary

15 10 2010

pretty cool sign eh?

From the test kitchen of Leroy’s Bar to your table I bring you one of America’s iconic sandwiches…the Rueben.  I am a fairly new convert to this culinary delight, more on that later we must move on.

The Reuben is described as a hot sandwich with layered corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Russian dressing grilled between slices of rye bread.  Obviously variations exist like the one I am about to share with you and others that use Thousand Island dressing, no comment.  There is turmoil surrounding  the origins, one account credits Reuben Kulakofsky, a Lithuanian born grocer from Nebraska and served at the Blackstone Hotel somewhere around 1920ish.  The other claim is a man named Arnold Reuben who owned the once famous Reuben’s Deli in New York and is said to of introduced the sandwich around 1914.  Either way, thanks for the creation of this delicacy, Reuben’s.

I was introduced to the Reuben by my lovely wife Jenny.  We were on our way home from a visit to the University of Michigan Hospital and I wanted to show her this little bakery/deli I had fallen in love with, so a trip to Zingerman’s Deli ( was in  order.  What a great place, fresh baked breads, high end cheeses and meats, great sandwiches and more.  She, Jenny, convince me to try the Reuben and I convinced her we need a chunk of really expensive Parmigiano Reggiano, broken fresh from the wheel (oh boy is this stuff good, you will never buy the stuff at the grocery store again and may have delusions of robbing your kids piggy banks to pay for it).  It was love at first bite, we pulled over and enjoyed our treat at a commuter parking lot just north of Ann Arbor.  So that is my inspiration for this, my version of a classic.

I’m a big proponent of quality in the kitchen.  That is not just for the ingredients but the equipment as well.  For this we will use Wusthoff Knives, All Clad pans and most importantly to me a really high quality wood cutting board and my new butcher block table, both made by Scars & Scrapes Custom Wood Works (they can be reached via email at out of high quality Michigan hardwoods including maple, walnut and cherry.  For the ingredients I use the local deli and pick their finest Pastrami(I like the smokiness), baby swiss,  and sauerkraut.  I like to take the time to make the bread and homemade Russian dressing(see recipe below).

The ingredients:

  • Pastrami (or Corned Beef)
  • Sauerkraut, rinsed very well
  • Baby Swiss Cheese sliced
  • Rye Bread
  • Russian Dressing

Rinse sauerkraut really well, this will take away some of the bitterness, in the kraut not your life.  How do I know this?  Because my Grandma told me!  I like to heat up the meat and the kraut in a small pan.  My secret is to  squirt a little Russian dressing into the kraut, mmmmm.  Layer cheese, kraut, pastrami, dressing, kraut, cheese between two slices of rye, in this case the homemade marbled rye I  made yesterday.  Use butter or Olive Oil on bread and grill in a medium hot pan.  Let it toast and flip.

The warming of the Pastrami and kraut serve a couple of purposes.  One being that by definition the Reuben is a hot sandwich.  By warming the ingredients a bit it allows the actual grilling time to be shorter as you are not trying to heat through(the sheer size of this sandwich would take to long and your bread would burn).  It also allows me to add the dressing into the kraut adding  moisture to the mix and lastly the heat helps to melt the cheese from the inside while the grilling does it from the outside.  See its more than just slapping some stuff on bread, there’s a lot of  love in this sandwich.

When the grilling is complete, remove from the pan back to your high quality wood cutting board.  Slice this in half and prepare to plate your masterpiece.

my interpretation of a classic

Serve this culinary beauty with care.  It is  hot and needs some company on the plate.  I like to serve it up with a homemade dill pickle, any left over kraut and an ice cold beverage of your choice.  My choice is a Heineken.  A handful of paper towels or if you are civilized napkins are in order to wipe the drool off your chin and also the drippings from the sandwich.

There you have it, I have to go.

Russian Dressing

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 TBS water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup Heinz Ketchup (no such thing as catsup people)
  • 2-3 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 TSP vinegar
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1/2 TSP paprika
  • 1 1/2 TSP celery seeds
  • 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 grated onion

cook sugar and water in a sauce pan until thick, cool the syrup.  Combine the remaining ingredients, add sugar and whisk well to blend.  Enjoy.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that authentic Russian dressing has no Mayo in it.  I am anti Mayo.  This dressing is delicious and you will be amazed with the new uses for it around your kitchen.




6 responses

15 10 2010
Dale Lieffers

Why temp us with this when we are comming into the ” it’s hard to keep the weight off ” season? Sound great. Ha

15 10 2010
Betsy Amoroso

Now I know what I”ll be ordering for lunch! By the way, I’m insanely jealous that you can just swing by Zingermans .. their catalog is my food porn!

15 10 2010

PHL to DTW. Ill pick you up and we will swing there and grab a sammy.

15 10 2010
Cousin Moreen

What a surprize….no mayo in the Russian Dressing??!! Great. I try…I said try …to stay away from the stuff myself.
I really enjoyed this post. And the pictures are beautiful Nice job.
You are a surprise a minute cousin!

15 10 2010
Ann Raske

Thanks for the Russian recipe. I have loved the Reuben since childhood. Kyle and I have made many a special trip for a good Reuben. I like them best at home, he makes a mean Reuben.

16 10 2010

Matt – it sounds so tempting and I haven’t had lunch so I am especially drooling. I must make the Russian dressing.

Gramma Slachta and I went to Detroit shopping at least twice a year in your younger years when Grampa would take care of you, Chris and who else might be home from school. We always had a Rueben and hot tea for lunch at Hudson’s Restaurant in downtown Detroit. That was a must!

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