My Mother’s Reuben Sandwiches

My Mother's Reuben RecipeYou know who I don’t understand? People who hate mayonnaise. I’m not talking about those who  just have a preference for a different condiment; diversity is encouraged. It’s those that turn a snooty nose up at it, like it’s so gauche or pedestrian an ingredient, like one should be ashamed to cook with it. As I’m oft to do, I blame Paula Deen for this mayonnaise snobbery. Her love of it, while unabashed early in her career (along with butter), soon became an example of her gluttony, or excess, and an opportunity to ridicule her. Instead of waving her fat flag high and owning her love for delicious things (Julia Child did say that fat gives things flavor and no one should question Julia’s handle on flavors), Paula succumbed to a cruel public, and though she continued to cook with these “shameful” ingredients, she began acting embarrassed when pressed to reveal that a recipe contained mayonnaise or butter. Noting a specific amount, she’d lower her eyes from the camera and wince as she called for a cup of mayonnaise, an entire stick of butter; like an admonished child. Paula has a lot to apologize for and, really, this is low on the list, but it still makes me pretty salty.

We’re not here to talk about Paula, though, we’re here to discuss Reuben sandwiches – and mayonnaise. Chances are, you’ve had a Reuben before; thinly sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing toasted all together on rye or pumpernickel bread? A delicious classic. Reubens were popular in my house growing up, most likely as a result of my half-Swiss heritage and my family’s love of all things sauerkraut. Even as a tiny wee, I liked them and as I grew up and tasted other varieties, I formed a solid love for the sandwich.

My Mother's Reuben RecipeBut, like most things, nothing is as good as my mother’s version. She makes one, seemingly small, change to the original recipe and yet, I swear, it takes the Reuben to a totally different level of savory that just can’t be beat. The difference? She swaps mayonnaise in for the Russian dressing! If your nose just went up in the air at that idea, we’re not friends anymore.

I know what you’re thinking – “Come on! It’s just mayo! It’s not that different!” WRONG. It is so different! Here’s the thing: she mixes the mayonnaise into the sauerkraut and what happens is the sauerkraut, though drained, releases a bit of moisture and forms this creamy sauerkraut concoction that, sandwiched between melty cheese and corned beef is…my mouth is seriously watering as I try to think of the perfect adjective…which, I think, is adjective enough.

Try these. I promise that you will not be disappointed. My mother promises too and she never fibs.

My Mother’s Reuben Sandwiches
Yields 4 sandwiches

8 slices of rye or pumpernickel bread
1lb of thinly sliced corned beef
1/2lb of Swiss cheese
1-14oz. can of sauerkraut, drained well
2/3 cup of mayonnaise

In a medium-sized bowl, add the drained sauerkraut and the mayonnaise and blend well; set aside. Prepare sandwiches by layering one slice of bread, corned beef, 1/4th of the sauerkraut mixture, Swiss cheese, and the other slice of bread; repeat for 4 sandwiches. Over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a skillet and allow to melt completely. Add sandwiches and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Check for a golden brownness – or any brownness if you’re using a dark pumpernickel – and flip, cooking for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything is warmed through. When finished, remove sandwiches from pan and allow to cool slightly for 2-3 minutes; this allows the sandwich to firm back up a bit so that everything doesn’t spill out the sides when you go to cut it. When ready to eat, gather lots of napkins and dive in!

Super Bowl Sliders

Super Bowl Sunday is practically a national holiday in this house where we gather with our chosen family to watch the game and, of course, partake in food that evokes modern, American masculinity. This last part is mostly a joke because while we’ve done the chili, and the burgers, and the beer cheese soup (omg, this needs to happen again immediately), it’s also usually my dear femme bestie, Charlotte, and I scouring over our Pinterest boards deciding what we want to eat and what our other guests will put up with. Like, last year we drank raspberry beer spritzers while our beaus looked on in horror and this year there was mention of making homemade cannolis. See how we just went and upgraded Super Bowl Sunday? Boom.

This year, I wanted to make something easy, but also totally delicious and absolutely game day appropriate. It took all of a quick browse through the supermarket flier to be reminded by a sale on King’s Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls that I wanted to make these sandwiches I had pinned a while back – Funeral Sandwiches! Before Pinterest was born and caused me to love something more than I do my cats, I had heard distant rumor of these beloved little baked ham and cheese sliders. Word in my family is that the long-estranged, now deceased, Aunt Ida, learned to make them when she moved to the South in the 70’s. This was before the schism between her and the family had erupted to the point where culinary boons like this one were no longer shared. I tried to find the true origin of the funeral sandwich, but all of my fancy (read: Catfish-inspired) Internet research could tell me was that these were a popular food to take to post-funeral luncheons or to provide to a grieving family. I love literal foods.

The Super Bowl is a happy time though, so down with the gloom and up with getting these into your mouth immediately! In fact, that’s what Bear and I did tonight. Under the guise of “recipe testing,” we made a batch of these for dinner in order to be certain they were Super Bowl worthy and by god, Aunt Ida, they were! If you are a savory-sweet hound like me, these should go straight to the top of your to-do list because what I’m being awfully coy about in stretching this out, is telling you that they are ham & cheese sliders drizzled with a sweet onion and poppyseed glaze that causes them to bake up all toasty, half crispy and half gooey. The sweet ham, the tangy swiss, the worcestershire and brown sugar in the marinade…are you drooling yet? I am and I just had them in my mouth a few hours ago. Dang that buttery, savory smell lingering in the air!

Is it Sunday yet?

Super Bowl Sliders, or Funeral Rolls
*Adapted from the many different versions of this recipe found here.
Makes 12 sliders

1-12 pack of King’s Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls
1/2lb. thinly sliced honey or pit ham (I made half of mine with herbed deli turkey because I had it and I was trying to use it up. Also a tasty option!)
1/2lb. thinly sliced Swiss cheese
1/4-1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1 stick + 2Tablespoons of butter, melted
1-1/2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons of dehydrated onion flakes
1-1/2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 400°. Select a baking dish that both has an edge and can accomodate 12 sliders, allowing them to touch. I used a quarter sheet pan (13-inches by 9-inches) with a 1-inch edge. Cut rolls in half and line baking dish with bottoms. Top each with ham and cheese. Apply mayonnaise to inside of bun tops and place on top of sandwiches. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter with mustard, onion flakes, worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and poppy seeds. When combined, pour over the top of the sandwich buns making certain to also get drizzle over the gaps where the sandwiches are slightly touching. Cover pan with aluminum foil. From here, you can either go right into the oven, covered, or put them in the refrigerator overnight to marinate longer. Either way, once they are in the oven, allow them to bake covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove foil and allow to continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes or until tops are brown. Because of the butter, they brown up quickly, so keep an eye on them. If you walk away for a solid 10 minutes without checking, you very well might come back to burnt buns! Once out of the oven, allow to set up for 5 minutes and then dig in! Best paired with ice cold beer and plenty of jokes about tight ends.