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Adventures in Sandwich Making

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Since retiring, my wife and I cannot afford to go out as we did, so we have spent time trying to create our favorite dishes in an date-at-home type of way. And this past Saturday we tried to make the ultimate Ruben Sandwich, but we failed miserably.

We had the right ingredients; a brisket of corn beef, thousand island dressing, homemade rye bread, locally made sauerkraut, and an expensive block of aged Swiss cheese.

Part of the reason for the colossal failure was, there was just too many cooks in the kitchen; that is me and her. I made the suggestion of cooking the meat for 4 hours and she said for 3. The problem was, she was thinking of double-boiling it and I was thinking of it being in the crock pot. We were thinking two different things and assumed the other knew. So we started the meat really late in the crock pot, but 2 hours later on high, it was not close to done, so we boiled it for another hour and it still was not really tender. Done, but not tender.

Then there was the homemade bread. It was just to dense and sort of brittle and "heavy". It tasted good because I pan toasted every piece, both sides, but it did not end so well even as we built the sandwich up. The thousand island dressing was added first, then the sauerkraut, then the meat and shredded Swiss cheese off the block we bought, then the last piece of bread.


Then we made the mistake of trying to put the sandwich together thinking the meat would warm it all up. The cheese, though shredded thinly, did not melt because the sauerkraut was cold and knocked down the temperature of the sandwich overall. Oh it had good taste, but not really robust flavor.


After church we took the leftovers and built the sandwich much different. We had used up our homemade rye bread Saturday night, our first try at this, so I was stuck with wheat bread from the cheap bread aisle at the store, but toasted the top piece of bread on both sides, and the bottom piece of bread only on the inside. As I pan toasted the bread, I sauteed the sauerkraut in a skillet on low to warm it. I also put the corn beef into a pan and warmed that as I cooked. Then when I built the sandwich up; toasted bread to the top only, thousand island, warmed sauerkraut, warmed corn beef, shredded Swiss cheese, then the bread toasted on both sides for the top slice of bread. All that remained now was to toast the bottom of the sandwich; the bottom side of the untoasted bread. Being careful to keep the sandwich together, into the pan it went and...everything melted perfectly, the bottom bread toasted to perfection.

And upon biting into it...oh was it ever good. The cheese had melted over everything, the meat was warm, and the sauerkraut being warmed gave it a robust flavor. It all worked.

But we can do better. The third time is the charm. I will cook my corn beef brisket for 8 hours in the crock pot on a low heat to get a tender meat. We also will BUY our bread from the expensive bread section at the store, and not use rye, but rather sourdough instead. We feel the store bought bread will not be so dense and "heavy" and the sourdough will give the sandwich a better flavor. But the rest we will do the same, warming everything and doing the final toast of the bottom of the bottom slice of bread last, just to get everything to melt.

Who would have thought a simple sandwich would be so difficult to make?!
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It is simple if you have everything ready before attempting to put it together.

One thing I do differently is to grill the sandwich like a grilled cheese sandwich.

Butter the bread on one side and put Thousand Island Dressing on the other side.  Then a slice of Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, corned beef, another slice of Swiss cheese, and last the bread with Thousand Island Dressing and buttered on the outside.  Put in a hot skillet, flip over when browned and brown the 2nd slice of bread.

It just isn't a Reuben without the rye bread.
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