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Mar 19, 2011 10:43 AM

Rueben Sandwich advice

When a Rueben sandwich calls for Swiss cheese, do you care what type of cheese you use? Emmenthaler or Gruyere or American Swiss

Can you make an authentic Rueben sandwich without mayo or Thousand Island or Russian dressing? I don't use mayo-type dressings, homemade or otherwise, nor store-bought dressings.

Would you bother making a rueben-type sandwich without a dressing, or would you substitute something else?

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  1. Frankly, I'm not sure what an "authentic" Rueben looks like. I've seen so many varieties that carry the "authentic" label that I just ignore that concept entirely and prepare what I like or what my guests might like. I've come to the conclusion that a "Rueben" is more a style of sandwich than an actual recipe or formula.
    My first choice in Swiss cheese for this sandwich would be Emmenthaler. After than in order, American Swiss, then Gruyere.
    Russian dressing is my first choice, then Thousand Island, then perhaps some mayonnaise based dressing that I might concoct spontaneously. IMO, a Rueben sandwich without dressing is far too dry to be enjoyable.

    5 Replies
    1. re: todao

      Have to side with todao re: the cheeses and dressings, esp. re: the dryness factor. You'll want to be sure that your meat has at least a small rim of delicious fat to contribute. Also make sure to drain the 'kraut very, very well. It makes all the difference.
      All that being said, mustard makes a very delicious and adequate dressing for a good Reuben. In one place though, we must agree to differ: the Reuben isn't a style of sandwich; it's a corned beef, kraut and Swiss sandwich with Russian dressing; grilled 'til crispy on rye. Anything else, and it might be absolutely delicious; maybe the best thing a human ever invented. But not a Reuben, not a classic delicious Reuben. (It's good also with not-too-drippy coleslaw, but in that case it's a Rachel, not a Reuben.)

      1. re: mamachef

        My dilema begins with the rye. Russian rye; German rye (Pumpernickel) Jewish rye, White rye, Dark rye, yeasted rye or unleavened rye. Emmenthaler, Gruyere, Raclette, Tete de Moine, Baby Swiss or American Swiss. Wet cured corned beef, dry cured corned beef, canned corned beef.
        So I guess I'll never qualify as a Reuben snob. I just love 'em anyway they're assembled.
        We're not that far apart in our assessment of "authentic". I'd agree that authenticity in this sandwich rests in its basic ingredients (Grilled rye with Corned beef, kraut, Swiss and Russian dressing) but I've never found an "authentic" exclusive variety of Swiss cheese used and the types of rye seem to depend on individual preferences. :erhaps Adamd's "traditional" would be a better word. Grilled rye with Corned beef, kraut, Swiss and Russian dressing is what I meant by "style". I couldn't think of another word that distinguished its category. Glad you mentioned the importance of squeezing the liquid out of the kraut and including the fatty portions of the meat. Those are, IMO, of critical importance to the wonderful flavor that makes the Reuben so delicious.

        1. re: todao

          Ok, I get what you're saying. Well, let's give it some thought re: at least the cheese. If the Reuben had been developed abroad, there would be the questions of regionality as far as that's concerned. But the Reuben was developed on the Lower East side of N.Y. in the early part of the century, at a kosher-style deli. What kind of cheese would they have been likely to have had? (I have no idea; asking for input here.) Import/Export couldn't have been too easy - seems like the most domestic of Swisses would be what was on offer then.
          I'm not a corned-beef snob either. You can put it on any kind of bread, with slaw, or kraut, with mustard or Russian, or shredded pickles or kimchi, and I love it all. Happy is she who is curled up on a rainy day with a great great book and a corned beef sammie, anystyle.

          1. re: mamachef

            But New York does have an extensive cheese making history which includes that period, I just haven't found any reference to Swiss cheese making in or around New York at that time.
            Post Script:
            "It was not until 1873 that Julius Wettstein, who had immigrated to the United States from Germany with his wife Matilda and their children, started a cheese factory in Monroe. His business featured a fine line of German, French and Swiss type cheeses."
            Quoted from:

            1. re: todao

              As always, todao, you're a great source of information. I knew New York had a modern-day cheese thing going on; didn't realize it was a true resurgence.
              : ) thanks!

    2. I hope you're including sauerkraut? I think the creamy dressing is perfect to soften the sharpness of the kraut.

      1. Agreed about "authentic."
        Perhaps a better way to describe corned beef, swiss, kraut, russian dressing on dark rye and then grilled, would be "traditional."

        But there are no rules to making a sandwich, use whatever cheese you like. Use a country style dijion mustard if you dont like russian. It goes well with the cheese, kraut and corned beef.

        1. If you don't like the mayo, you might try a mellow honey mustard that gives you some moisture. I make my non-authentic Rueben with pastrami, and I like to use Comte as the cheese.

          1. As a mayonnaise lover, I have a hard time imagining the sandwich without Russian dressing. However, I recognize that a significant portion of the population dislikes mayo. But is any dairy-based dressing out of bounds? If not, how about making a Russian dressing using Greek style yogurt? How about a Russian dressing made with buttermilk? (That's getting kind of thin, but I still think it would work.)

            If dairy-based dressings are entirely excluded, then think I'd douse the whole interior with a vinaigrette, which would be messy, but still doable. You definitely need something for moisture, as Todao said.

            3 Replies
            1. re: gfr1111

              my grand dad use to make me a Rachel because at one time I hated Mayo
              shreaded cabbage mixed with mustard and spoonful of pickel juice in place of the suarkruat

              1. re: girloftheworld

                Just looked up the Rueben, and they mention the Rachel--which is what I love but would bet no one west of the Hudson will know what I'm talking about. It subs pastrami for corned beef and coleslaw for sauerkraut. I like mine on pumpernickel and you have to eat it immediately or it falls apart.

              2. re: gfr1111

                Hey, I like this suggestion of a greek style yogurt, Fage, which I always have on hand. Perhaps letting it set for a while with some herbs, or even mixed with a little dijon. What do you think?