• By the Culinary Institute of America
  • Tuesday, April 25, 2006 9:00pm
  • Life

What do you get when you spread rye bread with Russian dressing, pile it high with corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, and grill it until golden?

You get the Reuben, the ultimate deli sandwich.

Although it’s associated most often with New York, the Reuben’s origin is hotly disputed. Some believe that Arnold Reuben, a restaurant owner in New York, created a variation of the infamous sandwich for a famished actress in 1914.

Others give credit to Reuben Kulakofsky, a grocer from Omaha, Neb., claiming that he prepared the first corned beef and sauerkraut concoction for a crowd of hungry poker players at the Blackstone Hotel in the early 1920s.

Additional stories link the Reuben to the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln, Neb., and a sandwich contest in Omaha. There’s no way of saying for certain who created what is now an American classic, but with all the intrigue surrounding its existence, it’s not surprising how much people love this sandwich.

Reubens are packed with flavor and texture. The Reuben brings together a unique combination of ingredients, offering a little bit of everything in one package – salty, tangy, creamy and crisp.

It also satisfies a range of appetites. Depending upon how high you stack it, the Reuben can feed one, two or even three. When cut into quarters and served with coleslaw or a pickle, it makes a light lunch or dinner for four.

Lastly, it takes no time at all to assemble a Reuben. Whether it’s made at home or at the deli, a Reuben can go from grill to plate in less time than it takes to eat it. With the right ingredients and the urge for a sensational sandwich, anyone can make a Reuben.

To begin, you need a high-quality Jewish rye bread. An authentic loaf from a local bakery is ideal. Next is fresh, thinly sliced meat. Corned beef is the most traditional, but you can also substitute pastrami or turkey. Swiss cheese and sauerkraut offer even more flexibility since most varieties of each have similar flavor profiles. To discover which type you like best, experiment with different brands.

“When it comes to Russian dressing, there are two options, store-bought or homemade,” said Michael Skibitcky, lecturing instructor in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

“Making your own dressing will yield the best-tasting sandwich – all you need is six standard ingredients and a few minutes.”

The following recipes are from The Culinary Institute of America’s “Gourmet Meals in Minutes” ($40) and “Cooking at Home” ($40) cookbooks.

Reuben sandwich

2tablespoons butter, softened

8slices rye bread

8slices Swiss cheese

3/4pound corned beef brisket, thinly sliced

1/2pound sauerkraut

1/4cup Russian dressing (recipe follows)

Butter one side of four slices of bread, and place the slices buttered-side down on a lined baking sheet. Top each with a slice of Swiss cheese, and then divide half of the corned beef among them. Divide the sauerkraut among the sandwiches, and top each with 1 tablespoon of Russian dressing. Add another layer of corned beef and a second slice of Swiss cheese to each sandwich. Finish with the remaining bread slices, buttered on one side, buttered-side facing out.

Preheat a sandwich griddle or frying pan to medium heat. Cook the sandwiches on one side until the bread is golden brown. Use a spatula to carefully flip the sandwiches over and finish cooking on the second side. Cut the sandwiches in half before serving.

Makes 4 sandwiches. Per serving: 620 cal., 29 g pro., 38 g carbo., 40 g fat, 2,330 mg sodium, 125 mg chol., 4 g fiber.

Russian dressing

1/3cup mayonnaise

1 1/2tablespoons ketchup

1 1/2teaspoons prepared horseradish

1/2teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all of the ingredients thoroughly and store in the refrigerator until needed.

Makes 1/2 cup. Per 1/2-ounce serving: 80 cal., 0 g pro., 1 g carbo., 8 g fat, 135 mg sodium, 5 mg chol., 0 g fiber.


1 1/2cups finely shredded green cabbage

1/2cup finely shredded red cabbage

1carrot, thinly sliced into 1- to 2-inch strips

1/2red pepper, thinly sliced into 1 to 2-inch strips

1/4red onion, thinly sliced

For the dressing:

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2teaspoon celery seed

1/4cup mayonnaise

1/4cup sour cream

1tablespoon cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons horseradish

Salt, to taste

1/2to 1 teaspoon ground white pepper

2shakes Tabasco sauce

Combine the cabbage, carrot, pepper and onion.

Stir together the sugar, mustard and celery seed until well blended. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and stir to combine.

Fold the vegetables into the dressing. The salad is ready to serve now, or it may be chilled before serving.

Makes 4 servings. Per 5-ounce serving: 180 cal., 2 g pro., 13 g carbo., 3.5 g fat, 200 mg sodium, 20 mg chol., 2 g fiber.

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