Homemade corned beef makes best Reuben sandwich

American Reuben Sandwich. / Getty Images/iStock/LindasPhotography
American Reuben Sandwich. / Getty Images/iStock/LindasPhotography

Saint Paddy's day is knocking at our door, so I couldn't help but include a recipe for a Reuben, a sandwich that many consider manna from heaven. It has corned beef in it which, yes, is considered an Irish dish. Interestingly though, the Reuben is an entirely American invention.

Culinary historians will tell you that it was Fern Snider, chef of the Rose Bowl Restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska, who was named grand-prize winner in the 1956 National Sandwich Idea contest sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. And it was at that magic moment that the Reuben sandwich obtained almost immediate national fame, rising to the top of more than 600 entries.

Since that day in 1956, Reubens have grown in popularity, and you can find them on menus in so many restaurants around town. I wrote a column years ago asking readers to send in their favorite Reuben in Chattanooga. Hands down, it was Nick's Deli in Hixson. WanderLinger has an excellent Reuben, too. So who makes your favorite?

I used to make Reubens at home every few weeks and always bought corned beef from the deli. A couple of years ago, though, I started making my own in my slow cooker and found it to be much better than the dime-thin slices I would get at the deli.

The corned beef comes out beautifully tender and can be cut it into pieces that are a little thicker, but still just as tender as thinly sliced deli meat. The flavor, though, is so much better.

As for the all-important remaining ingredients - sauerkraut and Swiss cheese - I recommend getting the sauerkraut from the refrigerator case instead of a can, and go to the deli to get the Swiss cheese. Better yet, go to the cheese market at Whole Foods. You'll spend a little more for Swiss cheese, but you'll come out with a better Reuben if you do.

Slow-Cooked Reuben

1 package corned beef brisket (about 4 pounds)

1 package refrigerated sauerkraut

1 cup good-quality Thousand Island dressing

16 slices rye bread, lightly toasted

8 slices (1 ounce each) Swiss cheese

Place sauerkraut in 3- to 4-quart slow cooker. Place beef brisket on sauerkraut. If brisket includes packet of spices, sprinkle spices over brisket.

Cover and cook on low heat setting for 9 to 11 hours or until corned beef is fork-tender.

Remove beef from cooker; place on cutting board. Cut beef into slices. To serve, spread 1 tablespoon dressing on each toast slice. Using slotted spoon to remove sauerkraut from cooker, top 8 slices toast with 1/2 cup sauerkraut each. Top sauerkraut with beef slices and cheese slice. Top with remaining toast.

Note: Add cheese while beef is still hot so it will melt slightly, or, before adding top slice of toasted bread, run open-face sandwich quickly under broiler to partially melt cheese. Makes 8 Reubens.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or annebraly.com.

photo Anne Braly

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