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March 30, 2012: Vegetarian Rueben Sandwich

March 29, 2012

My dad had this great quality that would have made him ideal to just about 99/100th of the male population: with eight kids on his hands and a time-consuming occupation, he still made the time to take me to all those sporting events that he enjoyed watching. Trouble is…I hate to watch sports. Love to play them, hate, absolutely hate to watch them. To me, it’s like fingernails on chalkboard.

I did love my father’s company, and even then, I was honored that he wanted to spend time with me, but every sporting event we went to, I found to be a struggle with extreme boredom. Dad was pretty perceptive, so he eventually figured out that I was going through the motions, and stopped asking. And then he did a clever thing: he searched for another commonality, which was food, and we could continue quality time with him introducing foods that he liked, to me. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized what eclectic tastes dad actually had. I never was completely sold on the pig feet and raw oysters, but those aside, he was pretty informed and experienced when it came to food. One place he used to take me was this German restaurant that served the best sandwiches in the world! I was still a meat eater then, so I was able to try their whole menu. One of my last memories of hanging out with my dad was having this sandwich and a beer together at that restaurant.

A Reuben Sandwich is the king of all sandwiches. Bar none. “Beef on a wick” (rare roast beef on a kummelwick roll  [a Kaiser roll topped with salt and caraway seeds] with horseradish sauce…another sandwich dad introduced me to) is a close second, but Reubens are the best. Trouble is, I haven’t eaten meat in a long time, so I wanted to make a veggie version that came close.

So, a couple of variations you may apply to my Reuben recipe:

  • If you want a classic Reuben, substitute corned beef for my veggie faux-meat sausage.
  • I had pumpernickel bread, but marbled rye works well too and is probably more traditional.
  • For a time-saving option, use a store-bought Russian Dressing.
  • For a more healthy version, simply toast bread in a toaster and skip the pan toasting with butter.

My non-meat substitute is Lightlife “Smart Sausage.” Traditionalists will cringe that this is an “Italian-style Sausage” but you need a spicier meat substitute to match the flavor of corned beef. Slice one “sausage” into quarters and fry in a thin layer of corn oil over medium heat, turning often. Remove to a paper towel. In the same oil, fry about 1/2C. sauerkraut. [For extra flavor, I cure my sauerkraut with a few juniper berries a few days ahead of time. Don’t include the berries in the sandwich.] Remove sauerkraut and fry 1/2C. shredded red cabbage. You may have to add a little bit more oil here. Resist the urge to combine and fry the sauerkraut and cabbage together. The red cabbage will turn the sauerkraut a pink color.

Russian Dressing:

  • 1C. Mayonnaise                       •1/4C. Chili Sauce
  • 2 Tblsp. Relish                         •1 Tblsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 Tsp. Hot Pepper Sauce   •1/4 Tsp. Worcester Sauce
  • Few grains salt                        •1 Tsp. Mirin
  • 1/4 Tsp. Each Ground Pepper, Chili Powder, and Paprika

Assemble Reuben: Cut pumpernickel bread to about 1/2″. On one slice of bread layer two pieces of Swiss cheese, then sausage, then sauerkraut, cabbage and top with Russian Dressing. Top with other slice of bread and butter lightly. Place this side in pan over medium heat. Lightly butter top slice of bread. Turn over when bottom in browned. Cut at a diagonal and serve with a large dill pickle, maybe some cole slaw and a good beer.

Thanks for everything, Dad…most especially for your understanding and wisdom. Your influences have made a big difference in my life (and go far beyond a simple sandwich recipe.) I’d like to think you would’ve loved my version of our favorite sandwich.

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