In this wacky world of mashable mixology and cross-cultural, culinary pollination, is it any wonder that purists like myself are left a little confused about what to do with their classics? The recipes we rely on for comfort and simplicity keep getting overhauled by inventive, gastronomic wünderkind.
Let’s face it, Grandma’s home-cooked staples aren’t what they used to be; those traditional recipes that have been handed down through generations have become — dare I say it? — conventional. Habitual. A bit too easy. In other words, the standards have now become the foundation and springboard for launching far more exotic experimentations.
Honestly, I feel boring compared to the rest of the world for falling back to recipes I can prepare blindfolded. I know it will come out perfect and taste fantastic because I’ve prepared it a million times. After all, practice makes perfect. And who doesn’t want to be perfect – especially, when it comes to cooking?
So, is it any wonder I found myself immobilized when contemplating a beautiful cut of corned beef I had slow-cooked all day? It was perfectly tender, ready to be assembled and served up on fresh Marble Rye with sauerkraut, Emmenthaler cheese, and homemade Russian dressing; but I couldn’t do it. Suddenly, I had visions of foodie guerillas and food trucks dancing in my head; culinary revolutionistas begging me to revolt and rebel against preparing my traditional Reuben Sandwich. The voices in my head kept saying, “You’ve done this…it’s become habitual…move on. Get creative and break boundaries.”
Break boundaries? Well, I wasn’t sure where to begin, but I knew I couldn’t stray far. The craving for that sandwich was just too powerful. My friends had been jibber-jabbering about Taco Tuesday all afternoon, and suddenly a lightbulb went off – I always have Mexican staples and ingredients in the cupboard and fridge. So, I decided to push through, roll up my sleeves and get creative. Hence, my Jew-Mex Deli Reuben Taco was born.
Adding fresh cilantro, diced jalapeno, and some fresh lime juice to my Russian Dressing gave it a nice zesty kick. <Pow!> Suddenly, my recipe went from la tradition to la fiesta! OY-Olé Bueno!!!!
While I learned that venturing from classic standards won’t kill me, I’m certainly glad I had enough leftover Corned Beef to make another sandwich, because lunch the next day couldn’t have been more traditionally comforting. Back to my good old-fashioned Marble Rye, Russian Dressing (sans kick), melted Swiss cheese and Sauerkraut. Biting into that sandwich was a sweet reminder that the classic Reuben was once considered “exotic” and “unique.”
Thanks for reading! ~Stasha
To make your own Reuben, try this recipe:
- Try to get a point cut brisket from a real butcher or deli
- Avoid vacuum sealed brisket from mass market grocery stores
- Always use your own pickling spice, even if using vacuum packed brisket
- Try making your own dressing
- Look for artisan bread when possible
- Beef Brisket (point cut)
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- Caraway Seeds
- Kosher Salt
- Hungarian Paprika (hot)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- Emmental Swiss Cheese (or close substitute)
- Some type of Rye bread (e.g. Dark Rye, Pumpernickel, Marble)
- Russian or Thousand Island dressing
Start with a dry rub of fresh ground pepper, then apply caraway seeds, kosher salt, and hot Hungarian paprika. Brown the brisket in a large cast iron pan with a small amount of EVOO. After browning, throw in some rosemary, garlic and thyme to heat, but not scorch. Course chop half a cabbage, then add it to a slow cooker. Add the brisket with all the dripping and set the cooker to “low”.
Use two pieces of a local bakery Rye bread or some variation of it. Select a Russian or 1000 Island dressing that suits the sandwich or make your own. Use an Emmental Swiss cheese or something similar that is not too sharp and without a lot of “feet” funk, such as a baby Swiss cheese. Look for something that hasn’t been aged long and has smaller holes. Find a Sauerkraut you like or make your own. Be sure to drain the Sauerkraut as much as possible to avoid a soggy sandwich.
Build your sandwiches between the two pieces of bread. Ratios for balance of ingredients are important, so avoid the ginormous pile of meat you often see on TV. If you add too much, the sandwich falls apart and will not heat in the center.
Heat your sandwiches in a the large cast iron pan. If making more than 2-3 sandwiches, consider using a 2nd pan. Preheat the pan with some EVOO over medium-to-medium-high heat so the oil shimmers, not smokes. Add the sandwiches until toasty “golden brown”.
**Serve immediately, take a bite, then sigh in traditional heaven…