Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reuben Sandwich

The Reuben sandwich is safely ensconced in the American culinary hall of fame. While this humble sandwich has roots in far Lithuania, it is indelibly assembled with that uniquely American savoir faire that comes into play late nights around a poker game. This American icon can still be found in smoky poker games, but it also graces many a white table-clothed restaurant with an appearance on lunch menus across the continent.
Whether the brain child of a Lithuanian grocer, or the meticulous construction of a German delicatessen owner, the Reuben sandwich is now easily explained in a few short sentences. Toasted rye is blanketed with Swiss cheese, smeared with Russian dressing, and draped in sauerkraut. Corned beef is then mounted atop the kraut and another hunk of toasted rye is place on top to sandwich this beast. It ain't for the meek nor the meticulous to eat.
Regardless of the origins of the Reuben sandwich, the structure is there for any person to prepare. For a restaurant, it can mean something to be known for one of these historic sandwiches. This addition to the menu adds a little weight, a little bit of culture to the culinary offerings. There are people who call themselves "eggs benedict people" or "chicken fried steak people," but there are definitely folks who pride themselves not only on their ability to rate a Reuben sandwich, but also on their ongoing history with the Reuben. These people will tell everyone they know about the restaurant with the best Reuben in town.
The basic Reuben sandwich can be easily prepared by just about anyone in their own kitchen. I'm not talking about corning your own beef, or baking the rye yourself, although both of those components can be learned and will add more depth to the sandwich experience. You can buy corned beef at the deli, or you can purchase it at the grocery store and cook it off yourself, but either way works when making the Reuben sandwich. The heartier the Rye bread the better the sandwich.
Home made sauerkraut greatly increases the tastiness of the sandwich, but good sauerkraut can be purchased at just about any grocery store. Although many people heap the kraut directly onto the sandwich, I recommend giving it a good rinse first in order to soften some of the brininess. Too much brine will dominate the sandwich and overrule any of the other ingredients from joining in.

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