Reuben To The Rescue

Reuben Sandwich 01

I recently spent the week with a friend.  Now don’t go all COVID-Nazi on me, as we made sure that my friend did not bring contamination into the house, and we made quite sure that he did not leave our house with any.  My friend Reuben is great company, and our time together never fails to satisfy.  He can be a little sweet or a little salty, but then can’t we all.  Of course, none of this should be surprising when I let on that my friend Reuben is actually a sandwich.

Marianne (formerly known in these parts as Mrs. JP) is adept at cooking many things that my own mother would never try.  One of those things is corned beef.  Marianne’s one rule – she prefers the round to the brisket.  The problem is that the leaner round is a cut that does not show up in the stores very often, so when it does we tend to go all Sam’s Club and buy three or four of them, or however many we can cram in the freezer.  Some of you may disagree with her choice, but just keep it to yourselves as I have no desire to open that can of – well let’s not talk about worms here.

When we had three kids at home a big fat hunk of corned beef would be wiped out after a single meal.  It was a good thing there were usually plenty of cabbage and potatoes to go along with it to ensure that everyone was up-filled.

But now it is just two of us, and the woman who cooks the meal is trying to avoid those starchy old potatoes that we Irishmen yearn for.  The answer: Reuben sandwiches.  Lots of Reuben sandwiches.

Almost every American knows what a Reuben sandwich is (sometimes spelled Rubin). They are found on menus in all kinds of places.  For those who require some remedial caloric tutoring, a Reuben sandwich is a hot sandwich traditionally made with corned beef and swiss cheese and made interesting with sauerkraut and some sweet dressing, either Russian or Thousand Island, all on toasted or grilled rye bread.

What is interesting is that there seems to be no agreement where it came from, despite the fact that it only goes back 100 years or less – certainly to a time of things like electric light bulbs and delicatessens.

The leading version of the story says that the sandwich was the brainchild of one Reuben Kulakofsky, a grocer in Omaha, Nebraska.  One of his poker-playing buddies owned the Blackstone Hotel there and put it on the lunch menu one day.  Leading to fame and fortune.  Well, maybe not.

New York will not stay quiet, though, and insists that a Reuben of its own deserves the crown – Reuben’s Delicatessen.  That story says that either Arnold Reuben invented the sandwich himself around 1914 when having to come up with something after closing time for a famous actress who was hungry.  Or it was one of his cooks who created it for Reuben’s son in the 1930s.  I say New York’s representatives are having trouble keeping their stories straight.  Oh well, I have no horse in this race so I will let New York and Omaha step outside and settle the question like gentlemen.

Anyway the Reuben is everywhere, and usually without a lot of messing-with.  Those who go with coleslaw in place of sauerkraut – please find another name for your sandwich because you don’t know nuthin’.

Anyway, back to Reuben’s visit to our house.  With a few pounds of corned beef coming out of a crock pot the hard part was done.  Some rye bread buttered and slapped on the griddle, swiss cheese to melt on the bread, a blop of sauerkraut on the griddle to heat while a few slices of hot corned beef go on the melty cheese.  And finally a drizzle of Thousand Island (yes, we have had quite enough of things Russian after the last four years).  Slice ‘er in two and add a pickle and maybe some chips, and there we are – our own little deli.

And no, the photo at the top is not from our personal visit from Reuben.  Isn’t that just the way when friends visit – you’re all having such a great time nobody thinks to get pictures.

The difficulty comes when there is just too much of that corned beef.  It results in a Reuben Festival that lasts two of us for days.  Not that I am complaining.  So it is actually not really a difficulty at all.  Reuben is always such good company.  Or maybe I need to pile more meat on each sandwich?  I know, moderation in all things.  You are such a scold, have I ever told you that?

Well Reuben finally bid us farewell and things have not been the same.  I can take or leave Swiss cheese all other times of the year (leaving it is the preferred option) and the Thou is not my preferred dressing on actual salads – I prefer the Bleu.  We did offer to let the sauerkraut hang around for an upcoming bratwurst celebration, though.  But for now, once the corned beef leaves the party is pretty well over.

The good news is that we have two more of those corned beef rounds in the freezer and the other stuff is filling store shelves just a mile and a few dollars away.  And we will be sure to welcome our old pal Reuben again.  As soon as we get rid of another, less welcome guest – a few unwanted extra pounds.


Photo Credits

Reuben sandwich – July 15, 2010 photo by Michaela den, via Wikimedia Commons with license.

24 thoughts on “Reuben To The Rescue

  1. JP, An excellent choice for a family visit. As to the dressing, I can take it or leave it, I have found that a ranch dressing goes nicely on a Rueben. The sauerkraut is a must, do you have yours heated or cold on the sandwich?
    Even Arby’s is selling Rueben sandwiches now, but they pale in comparison to the homemade real thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the sauerkraut hot just like everything else on it. I am not sure I can get on board with the ranch, though. Are there no purists among you?!?


  2. Reuben is a terrific guest. Coleslaw users are simply missing out.

    What is it about sauerkraut that appeals to those of us having lineage from some islands to the west of Germany?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was raised in a household that served sauerkraut cold out of the jar from the fridge, just like you might have a pickle. It is one of those staples that can always be found at our house.


  3. So well written JP! I’ve never had a reuben as I don’t like corned beef, at least I don’t think I like corned beef? The only time I had it was as a child when we would visit my dad’s Michigan cousin and she would make it for supper, thinking my dad being Irish would like it, and the rest of us would suffer through it. But Corned beef only showed up once a year at our house on St. Patrick’s Day with cabbage and I must have eaten something else, for I have totally blocked out the taste of it. So the next time I’m in a restaurant and someone orders it, I’ll have to sneak a piece. Interestingly, I was to go with a group of art friends to a new (very expensive) French restaurant to celebrate a birthday, just before COVID hit, and it was on the lunch menu?? Nothing French about a a reuben, but some of us were studying the menu online to see what we could afford and the reuben was the cheapest item at $16 as I recall…..the rest were $20-$25.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The only corned beef I ever got as a kid was out of one of those cans that we used to open with the little key soldered to the bottom. OK, and in the canned corned beef hash that my father used to like so much. Actually, a can of that hash sounds pretty good right now too. Why do I never dislike fatty, cheesy, melty, meaty stuff, but only the stuff everyone says is good for us.

      Yes, sneaking a little corner from a friend would be the most risk-free method to see if you have grown into the taste. Most restaurants do a decent job on these, as long as they avoid the coleslaw inside.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I remember the cans…..probably army stuff! Now hash is something you never hear of anymore. My mother would make hash using left over roast beef and potatoes and a bit of onion and it tasted pretty good….she even had a hash/meat grinder….now I’m craving hash!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. There was no shortage of corned beef on the family table when I was growing up. Corned Beef and Cabbage made a regular appearance. Carrots and Potatoes were included, and some French’s mustard to finish the presentation. One had to obtain a brisket from the butcher shop, then the brisket had to be soaked for quite some time to remove at least some of the saltiness, and then you could hoe in to it. Mrs. Lee replicates the recipe on our table very nicely.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed this post JP and now I am salivating just as I am ready to hit the hay. Being half German and half Canadian, we only had corned beef with cabbage and potatoes on St. Paddy’s Day to be Irish for the day. If I didn’t know it was St. Paddy’s Day, I would know once I opened the door. There is no range hood in this house. We had leftover corned beef as hash with eggs.
    Seeing your Reuben sandwich and the fact that you cooked it in a crock pot, an item I have just purchased for myself last week (as yet unopened and tried/tested), I know this will be on my menu agenda in the coming months. It is my first crock pot at the tender age of 64.

    Seeing the big sandwich and your description makes me think of the character of Edward X. Delaney in Lawrence Sanders “Deadly Sins” series about a retired NYC police detective. He would ponder his latest case while eating a big juicy sandwich over the sink because it dripped so much. Many paragraphs were written about these sandwiches, which description always me hungry after reading them. I really enjoyed the series back in the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such an entertaining story, J.P! Made me think of the Monte Cristo, another “friend” with a strange gathering of ingredients (ham, cheese, powdered sugar, raspberry preserves – what?) Like the Reuben, MC is delicious company at first but perhaps a regrettable choice several hours later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, the MC deserves its day in the sun. There seems to be more variety in the way an MC is made compared with a Reuben, and they are not seen as often. It may be too regional for you, but the Louisville-born Hot Brown should get a turn here some time.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Back in the day—when my stomach was younger and complained less— a Reuben sandwich was my absolute fave. But now I get to enjoy it via that photo—virtually—as we do so many pleasures.

    There’s probably a deli magazine somewhere that would publish this paean—maybe even paying you in sauerkraut.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I think I would rather get paid in corned beef or rye bread. Oh well, I guess we have to start somewhere.

      I had not been thinking about Reubens for several days, but am now. Too bad your insides are rebelling. I don’t do well with really spicy stuff these days, but am fortunate that I can still handle these.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s