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by Richard C. Ross
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Kiss me, I'm Irish!  Just kidding -- my ancestry isn't even remotely close to Irish.  My father though, was born on St. Patrick's Day, which is right around the corner.  It was tradition that we would annually celebrate his birthday with boiled corn beef, carrots potatoes and cabbage.   But it was the days after St. Patrick's and Dad's birthday that got my taste buds excited.  There are plenty of traditional Irish foods, and dishes like Shepherd's Pie and Irish Stew are near the top of my list o' favs.   But the Reuben -- if it's made with really good corn beef -- now there is something to which I can always look forward; it is definitely one of my absolute all-time favorite sandwiches.  

Tasty and tender Corned beef, piquant sauerkraut and tart Swiss cheese, topped with Russian or Thousand Island dressing and grilled between slices of hearty rye bread...  Hm-hm-hm-hm-HM!   This is generally the time of year when the Reuben sandwich re-emerges into a green spotlight.  The reason of course is the arrival of St. Patrick's day.  And while the ingredients may make it seem like an Irish meal, the sandwich is not really Irish at all.
 

A little history may be of some assistance here...   Although no one really knows for certain just when the Reuben was invented, there are a few good stories surrounding its origins.  According to Gastronomer's Guide, "The Reuben was invented by German immigrant Arnold Reuben, who sold the sandwiches at his deli in New York City. The hot sandwiches soon became famous and the classic was born."  (This was in the early 1900's).  Wikipedia states another possibility: that  a Lithuanian-born grocer from Omaha, Nebraska Reuben Kulakofsky, was the inventor, "perhaps as part of a group effort by members of Kulakofsky's weekly poker game held in the Blackstone Hotel" circa 1925-ish.  Other accounts credit other "inventors" and some mention that the original version didn't even have corn beef as an ingredient!

Reuben EggrollWhatever the case was and however the Reuben -- as we now know it -- got its start, the sandwich has earned a permanent and respected place on restaurant menus everywhere.  Iterations abound, including a Rachel (which substitutes pastrami for the corned beef and coleslaw for the sauerkraut), the Blue Reuben (substituting bleu cheese dressing), and a Grouper Reuben (obviously substituting grouper for the corned beef) and even a Virgin Reuben (a vegetarian adaption with everything except the meat). 

I stumbled upon what became one of my favorite Reuben recipes in Carmel, California: the Reuben Eggroll.  It should be fairly obvious that this delight is the basic Reuben ingredients tucked inside an egg roll wrapper and deep-fried, then served with thousand island dressing.  Yum!!  Apparently, this particular version originally came from a German restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where "Chef Dennis Wegner created them for a summer festival in about 1990."

For the purists out there who like to stick to the "original", the secret isn't necessarily the well-seasoned corn beef or the aged Swiss.  Nope.  It's in the dressing.  I have had many a Reuben that was spoiled with lousy dressing.  The key is to use real mayonnaise and a favorite brand of ketchup as the base, and then get a good recipe for Russian or Thousand-Island dressing.  I especially like a hearty German rye bread to surround the ingredients.  A mug of ice-cold beer to wash it down never hurts the meal either...

Seems as if everyone claims a touch o' the Irish right around the middle of March.  And who cares if the Reuben sandwich is not a traditional Irish meal or not?  The best part is that you really don't have to wait until March every year to enjoy one of the best sandwich inventions ever.  Irish?  Nope.  Kiss me?  Sure -- but I hope you won't mind a hint of garlic on my breath from the corned beef on my Reuben!   'Sláinte go saol agat (Health for life to you)!

   

 

 

 

 

 

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