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Rueben Sandwich advice

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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: http://www.monroecheesefestival.com/h...

            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?

              3. If you start to vary too far from the "original" It really won't be a Ruben anymore. It may still be a great sandwich, but like the "Rachel" it deserves it own name.
                In my opinion when something is given a name beyond its basic preparation or main ingredient and you vary from that specific dish you no longer use the name.
                I.E. Eggs Benedict made with spinach becomes Eggs Florintine.
                Not to deter you from making what ever kind of sandwich you like I just wouldn't call it a Ruben.

                2 Replies
                1. re: chefj

                  which is why my granddad wouldnt make me a "ruben " without the dressing..he said " then its not a ruben..here eat this instead

                2. I usually go the rye bread, Emmenthaler, sauerkraut and fatty corned beef route. I use Thousand Island on the side. More as a dip, rather than spreading it. I won't use mustard because it would be way too much vinegar, combined with the kraut.

                  1. If you put some Swiss cheese on both sides of the rye bread with the corned beef and the kraut in the middle, you don't need the Russian dressing to keep it from being dry.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Some years ago there was a Food Network show (was it with David Rosengarten?) on Reubens. Whoever it was said the sandwich originated with steamed bread, not toasted. If I were doing a Reuben without the dressing I'd definitely want to have it with the steamed bread.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: sancan

                        That seems pretty unlikely. the only reference I can find to "Steamed" is that that while the bread was grilling the interior was "steamed" as the ingredients heated. Which is the case with the modern Ruben.

                        1. re: chefj

                          The place I used to go for various hot sandwiches steamed all their fillings. The meat and cheese would be put onto a small metal tray, and put into a box-like machine and then they'd pull down on a lever to create the steam that made everything hot and gooey. They did not toast bread ever. Best Rachel I've ever had in my whole life. It was called Geoff's in Providence.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            A few places in Knoxville Tennessee still make steamed sandwiches. Some of us thought that we had the only places left.

                              1. re: chefj

                                Why not? I've had Rubens in all kinds of delis and toasting the bread was not a given at all.

                                1. re: escondido123

                                  Then I humbling request that it is not a reuben but a reuben-type.

                                    1. re: chefj

                                      Could you please clarify for me.....are you saying if a sandwich that has all the ingredients of a Ruben but is on steamed bread, it is not a Reuben? If so, what is it you believe must be done to the bread so it would dare to call itself A Reuben. Just baffled here. And it is spelled with 2 e's, just not together.

                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        There is a definition for a "Ruben" which includes being grilled.
                                        If it is altered IMO it is no longer a Ruben.

                                        1. re: chefj

                                          I would say that is ONE definition of a Reuben....oh maybe since you're spelling it differently with only one E, that Ruben with one E may need to be grilled. But in the world of the Reuben with 2 Es, it does not have to be grilled. In fact, in all the times I had Reubens while living on the East Coast, the traditional Reuben WAS NOT grilled. Now, if you want to somehow ignore that fact, that is your choice. You can grill a Reuben and still call it a Reuben, but the original was not grilled. (I just asked my husband on this and he said though he loved them grilled--as long as they were not too greasy--the traditional had the steamed bread.)

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            There is quite a bitof controversy on whether the Reuben Sandwich was created in NY or Nebraska, but their is evidence that the bread was buttered and grilled in the NY version and my not have been in the Nebraska version. C'est la sandwich.

                                            For my 50 years of eating Reubens on the east coast they were always grilled in a bit of butter.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              What an interesting discussion. Just for the record, I'm a live-and-let-live girl. Call it whatever you want, and make it however you want. The reason I remembered the steamed issue was simply that I'd not liked the grilled Reubens and was thrilled that I could order one steamed. So I did, and I liked it. Made 'em that way at home, too, and they're much more moist, without a ton of the gloppy 1000 Island or Russian. Sounded like Rella might like them steamed, too, that's all.

                                            2. re: escondido123

                                              Are you really holding up a misspelling as a point? Sad
                                              Here are some definitions of a Reuben:
                                              Almost every source agrees on the definition. Some sources do say it can be served cold but they are few.
                                              Well in all my time on the East Coast it has always been grilled. And I doubt that your husband is old enough to have eaten the "original"
                                              And as I said to start with this is my opinion although I am basing it on personal experience and good sources.

                                              1. re: chefj

                                                I guess my joke about the Es was too subtle. My husband is not old enough to have eaten the original. My comments were based on my personal experience and his personal experience as well as our good sources. The thing is, I don't even like Reubens because I prefer pastrami.

                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                  Many of us believe that substituting pastrami for the corned beef still keeps it within the definition of a Reuben or Ruben and does not cross the line to Reuben-style.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    I used pastrami for a Reuben sandwich of my own several times, until the owner of the deli I grilled at went positively insane on me. I called it a Reuben; she corrected me and told me that it was a disgrace.
                                                    Well maybe, but it was a damn-fine tasting disgrace.

                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                      But the truth is I also prefer to swap out the sauerkraut for creamy coleslaw and, as I just discovered on this board, that is called a Rachel. (If I ever have the occasion to order that sandwich here in So Cal--where finding good pastrami and coleslaw in the same place is next to impossible--I will order it by name.....and see what I get.)

                                                    2. re: escondido123

                                                      Sorry I didn't get the joke. I am not trying to convert anyone, it is just my feelings about it.
                                                      I don't like them either mayonnaise based dressing Yuck.

                                2. For me method is key-and I'm sure it is not the "authentic" way but delicious. I like my kraut drained, and the corn beef briefly browned on a hot skillet. Assemble the sandwich and grill in a little butter. When it starts to brown,cut the sandwich in half and push a little cheese out to brown on the griddle. The browned cheese bits make it so good.

                                  1. There are Reubens and there are Reuben-types.

                                    If it does not contain:

                                    - Rye
                                    - Sauerkraut
                                    - Swiss cheese
                                    - Russian Dressing (aka 1000 Island)
                                    - Corned beef (not Boar's Head crap but real) or Pastrami for some
                                    - Grilled

                                    It ain't no Reuben. It may be a delicious sandwich, but please call it something different.

                                    To your questions

                                    1 - A good swiss cheese (not the Americanized version), never gruyere, way too strong
                                    2 - Mayo? I would NEVER place mayo anywhere near corned beef or pastrami.

                                    Others are reuben-type, but not a reuben.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: jfood

                                      I'm puzzled, jfood. Russian dressing is, mostly, mayonnaise. so you are putting mayo on corned beef or pastrami when you use it.

                                      1. re: teezeetoo

                                        Do you sub in mayo when asked for 1000 Island dressing? Though 1000 island and Russian dressing both have Mayo in them does not make them Mayo.

                                        1. re: chefj

                                          i don't use mayo at all on pastrami or corned beef. But if jfood says he would never put mayo on his reuben, to me the fact that both russian dressing and thousand island dressing are predominantly mayo seems relevant . if you add chili sauce and relish or horseradish and ketchup to mayo, it still is mostly a mayo dressing.

                                            1. re: teezeetoo

                                              and bread is mainly flour. would you eat corned beef with flour.

                                          1. re: teezeetoo

                                            Mayo is an ingredient is 1000 island it is not the same. Same as corned beef or pastrami should never be served on white bread and rye bread is white bread with a few other ingredients.

                                          2. re: jfood

                                            Now I was with you until the aka 1000 Island. I can always tell that 1000 Island has been used because it is a sweet dressing and doesn't have the horseradish kick. And yes, I did grow up in the city.

                                            1. re: smtucker

                                              now my grand dad put caviar in his Russian dressing but I dont know if that is traditional or his own twist...

                                              1. re: girloftheworld

                                                That is one amazing twist, but would be totally wasted on a Reuben. :-)