CHUCKMAN ORIGINAL RECIPE: GRILLED SALAMI AND SWISS
SANDWICH – AND A NUMBER OF OTHER HOT SANDWICH IDEAS - THE DEFINITIVE REUBEN
It is such a simple concept, and an extremely tasty one. I
am sure many have done this at home, but I have never seen it noted anywhere. Here
is an opportunity to discuss a number of related hot sandwich ideas.
Hard Salami - slices of any good variety, although other
“softer” salamis are good too.
Emmenthal Swiss Cheese – only the real thing will do, with
its uniquely nutty flavor.
Rye Bread – the German-style crusty loaf. This exceptionally
tasty bread is not commonly found in supermarkets, but carried by specialty
stores. If unavailable, another rye will do.
Butter or the kind of buttery-tasting margarine made with
Butter one side of two slices of bread. These will be the
outside, frying sides.
In a skillet, assemble the sandwich with as much salami and
cheese as you like on top of the unbuttered side of one slice of bread. Place
the other slice, buttered-side-up, on top.
Set burner for medium high. Use a spatula to turn the
sandwich shortly. Also use it to press the sandwich down as the cheese begins
to soften. You may turn it several times. You do not want any scorched bread.
For turning, before the cheese has become gooey to behave as glue, use a fork
in your other hand, pressing against sandwich on spatula to hold the still-dry
sandwich together as you turn it.
ThIs is the method I use for simple grilled cheese
sandwiches, which I make with a good many different cheeses and breads.
This sandwich is excellent all by itself. It is even better
with a great dill pickle, and it is delicious with an appropriate soup, such as
white pea soup.
But it becomes something very special served with a large
soft-boiled egg broken on top so you must eat it with a knife and fork. The
soft-boiled egg is a superb touch for many hot sandwiches.
NOTE ON SOFT-BOILED EGGS
I find an “extra-large” egg, the largest grade, is perfectly
soft-boiled by exactly four minutes in boiling water. A smaller egg, as a
“large” one, needs three minutes. For the timing, do not leave the egg in the
water as it heats up. Lower it into the water, very carefully with a spoon
(they crack easily), once the water has lightly begun to boil.
Ham and Swiss are also excellent. I like the Westphalian-style
(dry-cured) hams best, although any of a number of hams are good. With the egg
on top, this sandwich begins to resemble a breakfast/brunch offering.
Even further along the lines of breakfast/brunch is
substituting Cooked Bacon for the ham. This makes something pretty special with
the soft-boiled egg.
When preparing sandwiches with ham or bacon for
breakfast/brunch, you may prefer replacing the rye bread with something like
slices of French Country Loaf or a lovely Brown or Multi-Grain loaf.
The basic Salami and Cheese is also good on a sliced Bagel,
although cooking with two halves of a bagel is awkward. It definitely requires
a fork in the other hand when turning. Also, just a bit of first mashing down
the bread’s bumps.
THE REUBEN SANDWICH: HOW I MAKE THIS TRADITIONALLY-GRILLED
SANDWICH WITHOUT GRILLING BECAUSE MY REUBEN SANDWICHES ARE TOO MASSIVE AND
MESSY FOR ORDINARY STOVETOP COOKING
For such a famous, and relatively simple, sandwich, it is
remarkable how many different ideas there are for its preparation. Here is a
small list of common differences in recipes:
Rye Bread versus Pumpernickel Bread.
Pastrami versus Corned Beef.
Russian Dressing versus Thousand Island Dressing versus
Thin, hand-held sandwiches versus massive piles that must be
eaten with a knife and fork.
Frying in a skillet versus either broiling or baking.
The order of the ingredients in the sandwich.
The amount of sauerkraut, some reducing it to almost a tiny relish,
others keeping it as a primary ingredient.
Some of these differences do not matter. Pastrami and Corned
Beef are really two versions of the same thing. Overwhelmingly, Rye Bread seems
to have displaced the Pumpernickel I knew many decades ago.
Dressing very much does matter. Mustard no more belongs in a
Reuben than ketchup belongs on roast beef. Russian Dressing is the correct and
most delightful ingredient. Many use a close relative, Thousand Island, because
it is easily available. You usually have to make Russian Dressing.
Both dressings start with a mayonnaise-and-dollop-of-ketchup
base. Thousand Island tends to be sweet while Russian has spicy ingredients
with a good deal of horseradish, very suitable for beef. Here is a Russian
Adjust to your taste:
1/2 cup of Mayonnaise
3 tablespoons of Ketchup
2 tablespoons of Horseradish
2 teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon of Sugar
1/4 teaspoon of Paprika
I very much like these sandwiches on the massive and messy side,
and while that is possible to do on a large restaurant grill, it pretty much
precludes frying them in a skillet. The method I’ve arrived at is baking on a
cookie sheet with a loose foil covering. The bread is buttered on the outside
just as you would butter it for a fried sandwich. With the butter, the bread
pretty well “fries” in the heat of the oven.
Pastrami or Corned Beef, as available.
Emmenthal Cheese - again, only the real stuff from
Switzerland. All the domestic efforts I’ve tried in the past fail to capture the
special taste and texture of the original.
Sauerkraut - I recommend Kuhne from Germany. It is the best
bottled or canned kraut I have ever eaten, and I have eaten many. It is not at
all watery, which many are, making it perfect for piling on a sandwich.
Russian Dressing and no substitute.
Rye or Pumpernickel Bread, your choice. Pumpernickel stands
up better to many wet ingredients, but Rye has a texture and taste most prefer.
On parchment-lined cookie sheets, lay out your bread and
butter well the side which will be outside the sandwich. Put the bottoms of the
sandwiches butter-side-down to begin building them.
Mound sauerkraut on each one generously. While Kuhne brand
is not at all watery, you might give each dollop a light squeeze before putting
on the bread. Maybe two inches deep. Next comes the meat. Be very generous,
making sure the slices are placed individually if they have all been packed
tightly together, as is often the case.
Now, the cheese. Again, generosity is key to a great sandwich.
The melting-down of the cheese onto other ingredients is important.
Finally, the Russian Dressing. Slather it on top heavily
and, if you like, drizzle sides lightly. Now put the tops on the sandwiches,
There is a reason for this order. During cooking, both the
cheese and the dressing will be running down onto other ingredients.
Cover loosely with foil and bake in a preheated 350-oven.
They should take about 15 to 20 minutes. Check them after 10 minutes.
The sandwich is a complete meal itself, but a dill pickle is
nice. So are buttery mashed potatoes.
ANOTHER SUGGESTION – ROASTED VEGETABLE AND CHEESE GRILLED
Using some of the roasted vegetables from a previous recipe
here, create a Roasted Vegetable and Cheese Grilled Sandwich. A cheese such as
Fontina is very suitable, but there are many others.
Use a French Country Loaf Bread or you can use a sliced
baguette with some effort, like mashing the halves down a little first. You can
avoid the shape problem by cutting the baguette into slices at, say, a forty-five-degree
angle, but you get smaller sandwiches. Butter the outside and fry in a medium
An aioli – a mayonnaise flavored with garlic, and sometimes
other ingredients, is a nice condiment to offer with this sandwich. It is also nice with
roasted vegetables generally.