One of America’s Favorites – Reuben Sandwich

March 16, 2020 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Reuben from Katz’s Delicatessen

The Reuben sandwich is an American grilled sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, grilled between slices of rye bread. It is associated with kosher-style delicatessens, but it is not kosher, because it contains both meat and cheese.

Possible origins
Reuben Kulakofsky, Blackstone Hotel: Omaha, Nebraska
One origin story holds that Reuben Kulakofsky (his first name sometimes spelled Reubin; his last name sometimes shortened to Kay), a Jewish Lithuanian-born grocer residing in Omaha, Nebraska, was the inventor, perhaps as part of a group effort by members of Kulakofsky’s weekly poker game held in the Blackstone Hotel from around 1920 through 1935. The participants, who nicknamed themselves “the committee”, included the hotel’s owner, Charles Schimmel. The sandwich first gained local fame when Schimmel put it on the Blackstone’s lunch menu, and its fame spread when a former employee of the hotel won a national contest with the recipe. In Omaha, March 14 was proclaimed Reuben Sandwich Day. Mention is made of this sandwich in a scene within the movie Quiz Show, where Richard N. Goodwin (known as Dick) orders and eats one in a restaurant with Charles van Doren, and they discuss the sandwich’s origins.

Reuben’s Delicatessen: New York City, New York
Another account holds that the Reuben’s creator was Arnold Reuben, the German-Jewish owner of Reuben’s Delicatessen (1908–2001) in New York City. According to an interview with Craig Claiborne, Arnold Reuben invented the “Reuben Special” around 1914. The earliest references in print to the sandwich are New York–based, but that is not conclusive evidence, though the fact that the earliest, in a 1926 issue of Theatre Magazine, references a “Reuben Special”, does seem to take its cue from Arnold Reuben’s menu.
A variation of the above account is related by Bernard Sobel in his 1953 book, Broadway Heartbeat: Memoirs of a Press Agent. Sobel states that the sandwich was an extemporaneous creation for Marjorie Rambeau inaugurated when the famed Broadway actress visited the Reuben’s Delicatessen one night when the cupboards were particularly bare.
Some sources name the actress in the above account as Annette Seelos, not Marjorie Rambeau, while also noting that the original “Reuben Special” sandwich of 1926 did not contain corned beef or sauerkraut and was not grilled.
Still other versions give credit to Alfred Scheuing, a chef at Reuben’s Delicatessen, and say he created the sandwich for Reuben’s son, Arnold Jr., in the 1930s.

Variations

Montreal Reuben
The Montreal Reuben substitutes Montreal-style smoked meat for corned beef.

Thousand Island dressing
Thousand Island dressing is commonly used as a substitute for Russian dressing.

Walleye Reuben
The walleye Reuben features the freshwater fish (Sander vitreus) in place of the corned beef. It is eaten in Minnesota and Ohio.

Grouper Reuben
The grouper Reuben is a variation on the standard Reuben sandwich, substituting grouper for the corned beef, and sometimes coleslaw for the sauerkraut as well. This variation is often a menu item in restaurants in Florida.

Reuben egg rolls
Reuben egg rolls, sometimes called “Irish egg rolls” or “Reuben balls”, use the standard Reuben sandwich filling of corned beef, sauerkraut, and cheese inside a deep-fried egg roll wrapper. Typically served with Thousand Island dressing (instead of Russian dressing) as an appetizer or snack, they originated at Mader’s, a German restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where chef Dennis Wegner created them for a summer festival circa 1990.

Rachel sandwich
The Rachel sandwich is a variation which substitutes pastrami or turkey for the corned beef, and coleslaw for the sauerkraut. Other recipes for the Rachel call for turkey instead of pastrami. In some parts of the United States, especially Michigan, this turkey variant is known as a “Georgia Reuben” or “California Reuben”, and it may also call for barbecue sauce or French dressing instead of Russian dressing. The name may have originated from the 1871 song “Reuben and Rachel”.

Vegetarian versions
Vegetarian versions, called “veggie Reubens”, omit the corned beef or substitute vegetarian ingredients for it, including zucchini, cucumbers, wheatmeat, mushrooms, tempeh, etc.

Corned beef Reuben sandwich

Kosher version
As the original Reuben contains both meat (corned beef) and dairy (Swiss cheese), it is not kosher. If kosher ingredients are used, a meat version can be made by omitting the cheese and any dairy ingredients in the dressing, and a dairy version can be made by omitting the meat.

 

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