Friday, May 2, 2008


Another item on Saveur's top 100 list is the Rueben sandwich. This was one of several All-American sandwiches listed by Saveur. I couldn't agree more with this choice. The Rueben is very worthy of being named one of the best American sammy's and here's why.

The perfect Reuben consists of four simple ingredients. Lightly toasted rye bread, swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and the meat. The meat can be either pastrami or corned beef, or a combination. I've had Reubens from all over the country. San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas. Yet the best Reuben I've had in my life was from the Midwest, where the sandwich was born. On a trip to Chicago my uncle took me to Manny's Deli. This old fashioned Jewish deli churns out plate after plate of mountainous Reubens each day. They are so popular because of the high quality of the ingredients used at Manny's.

There are two main things that make up a good Reuben.

It all starts with the meat. Whether you prefer pastrami or corned beef, the best Reuben consists of a plentiful pile of light, thinly sliced meat. The meat should not be chewy or have any large chunks of fat. While both corned beef and pastrami are fatty meats, it isn't pleasant to bite into pure fat and have it drag the rest of the meat out from between the two pieces of bread. The perfect Reuben is made with meat that has been cooked without too many added flavors. It is simply roasted in its own juices until it is soft, easy to chew, and retains its natural smoky meat flavor.

The second most important facet of the sandwich is the bread. While rye bread may not be the part of the sandwich that adds the majority of the flavor, it is incredibly important for both its texture, and its ability to keep the contents of the sandwich together. Let's face it, the Reuben is a messy sandwich. If the bread isn't up to the task of keeping the dressing, kraut, meat and cheese together then the combination of flavors is lost. Fresh, well baked rye bread is crucial to a good sandwich. The grainy crunch characteristic of fresh rye makes it so that the sandwich would be too mushy and soft when chewed. The main reason why the bread is so important however, is because it is the first taste of the sandwich. If poor quality rye is used, the texture and that initial grainy, almost sourdough flavor is lost. This makes the Reuben much less pleasant to eat.

The additions of the gooey, bitter swiss, the sour, vinegary sauerkraut, and the thick creamy Russian dressing mix to combine into a sandwich that has flavors that satisfy every taste bud on the tongue. Though there are really only four simple ingredients, they have many distinct flavors of their own. The mixture of so many different flavors and texture leads to one of my all-time favorite deli treats.