I think I just made the most delicious Reuben I’ve ever had in my life.
As soon as I took a bite, I could feel a slow smile start to cross my face. Because all of the flavors don’t hit you at once. First, it’s the sweet and sour rye. Then comes the corned beef in all of its fatty, meaty glory, followed by the Swiss cheese melting all over the place, and then the tangy, crunchy sauerkraut, each one building into a crescendo of………oh, what the hell am I writing here, it’s a goddamned sandwich for Pete’s sake. It was yummy.
I know one of you is going to tell me that I didn’t put enough meat in there. I know everybody loves big piles of meat. I am one of those people. But it’s all about the ratio here. Too much meat, and all you taste is meat. Which is fine, but why did I just spend a month tending to a bucket of cabbage, then? And baking bread.
No, you’ve got to use a little restraint, people. I’m the last person to be preaching about self-control in the kitchen, I realize, but it’s the darnedest thing about this life. So often, the person doing the preaching is the very one who should sit back and take a listen.
So, here’s my advice on how to make a kick-ass Reuben, take it or leave it:
1. Get your corned beef, your rye bread, your (homemade!!!) sauerkraut, your thinly sliced Swiss cheese at the ready. If you call it a mise en place, you’re going to have to leave.
2. Find a bottle of Thousand Island dressing. Alternatively, mix up your own special sauce (Two parts mayo to one part ketchup. Special, indeed.).
3. Grab a stick of butter and peel the paper off one side. Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat. Run the stick of butter over the bottom of the pan so it melts a bit (repeat as necessary), then use it to butter one side of both pieces of bread.
4. Place one piece of bread buttered-side-down on top of the puddle of butter in the pan. Oh, yeah. Spread special sauce on the other side.
5. Arrange your layers. I like corned beef on the bottom, then cheese, then sauerkraut. However, I don’t really think there’s a wrong way to do this (Yes, there is. Do it my way.). Also, don’t just lift a stack of corned beef from its wrapping and slap it onto the bread. That is an abomination. I didn’t work every weekend in high school making sandwiches for nothing. You have got to separate each layer. Ideally, you would place each slice on the bread so it folds over at least once, maybe twice, and sort of stagger them as you go to ensure consistent meat thickness throughout the sandwich. God, what is my problem?
6. More special sauce on the non-buttered side of the other piece of bread (buttered side on the outside). By now, it might be time to flip. Easy does it — it’s not all stuck together, yet. Don’t be afraid to let the bread get brown, but you also want the cheese to melt. Lower the heat if these two things aren’t happening at the same rate.
And there you have it. Think you can handle this, Dad?