When is the last time you had a Reuben sandwich? Have you ever had a Reuben sandwich? Oh, man, if not you’re missing out. Can I tell you something? Neither had I. But I fixed that, and we can change this for you right now.
The history of the Reuben sandwich (like the history of so many iconic and singular dishes) is a bit murky, with a number of people laying claim to being the inventor. The definition of a classic Reuben is a bit clearer: corned beef, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on rye bread. Thousand Island dressing, similar to Russian, also makes appearances in lots of recipes. But in the classic versions, corned beef is the meat of choice.
All of this is by way of saying that a post-Thanksgiving Reuben sandwich made with turkey instead of corned beef is a gift to yourself (and the lucky, lucky people you choose to make one for) in many ways:
1) You are using up that leftover turkey in the coolest way. Forget the typical (possibly dry) plain old turkey sandwich with a bit of mustard and mayo between two slices of cold bread. You are creating a brand new masterpiece. I can honestly say (and why in the world would I not honestly say?) that my family and I enjoyed this sandwich more than I did the original turkey. I will actually roast a turkey breast again just to make these sandwiches.
2) You are making Russian dressing. This all alone is a very splendid, splendid thing to know how to make. In the future, you may realize that many sandwiches will get much more excellent because of this (roast beef? Leftover sliced chicken breast? I would also dip a grilled cheese sandwich into this if I were feeling frisky and uninhibited.)
3) You now know how to make quick sauerkraut. This is perhaps a random life skill, but a valuable one. Imagine a future you having a simple hot dog cook out, but putting out your own homemade sauerkraut. Pretty rock and roll, in my opinion.
4) You are rediscovering rye bread. Rye bread seems super old-fashioned sometimes, no? I usually only remember it when I am at a diner ordering an omelet and the waiter lists the toast options, and I think, “Oh! Rye! Yes, that’s a very good bread! I’ll have that, please.” You could use a good sourdough, or another bread of your choice, but rye bread is a very wonderful bread, and part of the DNA of this sandwich.
Now, let’s talk about this awesome table setting. There are many times when a sandwich meal involves paper napkins, and possibly even paper plates. But these sandwiches surely deserve some extra love and respect. Lovely blush pink glasses for water, big goblets for wine – because it is highly possibly you are treating yourself to a glass of wine or a beer with these sandwiches.
Pretty blue and white plates, stately navy linen napkins. If you haven’t added an oversized wooden board to your collection of serving pieces than this is one to consider. A monster of a plank, perfect for an epic cheese board, or burgers or sandwiches for a platoon.
I’ll sign off secure in the knowledge that the day after Thanksgiving may be the new favorite holiday in my house.
You’ll notice the sauerkraut recipe calls for a small amount of beer. This works out very nicely because you’ll have an open bottle to pair up perfectly with this sandwich! You’ll also have leftover Russian dressing and sauerkraut to play with later in the week. When you spoon out the sauerkraut, drain it well before adding to the sandwich.
Turkey Reuben Sandwiches
For the Quick Sauerkraut
- 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
- 4 cups thinly slivered Napa or Savoy cabbage
- 1 yellow onion halved and very thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup apple cider
- ¼ cup beer
For the Russian Dressing
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- 1 tablespoon relish
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the Sandwiches
- 8 slices rye bread
- 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups grated Gruyere cheese approximately
- 8 slices roast turkey same size as the bread
- Make the Sauerkraut: Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the cabbage, onions and salt and sauté for 5 minutes, until slightly wilted. Stir in the mustard seeds, then add the cider vinegar, cider, and beer and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat to keep at a simmer and cook until the cabbage is fairly tender, but not mushy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Extra sauerkraut can be kept in its liquid in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to a week. (Make some hot dogs or sausages later in the week to use up the leftover sauerkraut!)
- While the cabbage is cooking, make the Russian Dressing. In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, onion, relish, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
- Spread one side of each of the slices of bread with the softened butter. Place 4 bread slices on a cutting board, buttered side down. Spread the slices with the Russian Dressing, about 1 tablespoon on each. Spoon about 2 to 3 tablespoons of well-drained sauerkraut onto each piece. Top with two slices of turkey, then 1/4 of the gruyere cheese. Place the remaining bread on top to finish the sandwiches, making sure the buttered side faces up.
- Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sandwiches (you will probably have to cook them two at a time), and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until the outside is nicely browned, and the cheese has melted.
- Cut in half and serve hot.
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