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Edible inspirations: Reuben sandwiches

March 27, 2022

My family celebrates St. Patrick’s Day every year, not always on the day, but we make it a point to get together. The main attraction: Reuben sandwiches.

These sandwiches are comprised of rye bread, slathered in Thousand Island dressing, with sauerkraut, corned beef and Swiss cheese. Throw it on a panini press, and you’re left with warm, cheesy, salty goodness.

Reubens could not be easier to assemble. All you need is a mini assembly line, a few helping hands, and you’ll have them in no time. The hardest part is not taking a bite of the corned beef, as it sits, ready for rye bread.

My grandparents, Bob and Kathy Greer, host the extravaganza every year. G-pa, as I call him, picks up 10 pounds of corned beef from the deli. The corned beef comes with a brining packet, so all you do is dump everything in the crockpot, and wait.

My cousin Jacori Soto, is usually on assembly duty. She loves this job, but this year she couldn’t make it to our March 17 festivities. Jacori and her husband, Jonathan, welcomed their first daughter, Daniella, in March of 2021.

Natalie Torbert makes reuben sandwiches
Natalie Torbert assembles reuben sandwiches. (Photo provided by Natalie Torbert)

So, it was up to me, my mom Tammy Torbert, to take over the assembly line. My Nana hovered over, making sure we put the right amount of every topping. It’s a simple, yet particular process for my German grandmother. First, you take two slices of rye bread. Next, you slather one side of each slice, with butter.

Then, you flip over the bread, and add a generous layer of Thousand Island dressing. Depending on everyone’s preference, add as much, or as little sauerkraut. Make sure to strain some of the liquid from the sauerkraut to prevent a soggy sandwich. Finally, for the grand finale, a healthy amount of corned beef is added, topped off with a slice and a-half of Swiss cheese.

Hopefully, the panini press is all heated up, so you can start cranking out reubens. G-pa always gets panini duty, as he is best with hot or sharp kitchen appliances. You certainly can cook them in a pan or griddle, but the panini press ensures those perfect marks and an even bake.

There is certainly no wrong way to make reubens, but the above steps are what creates our favorite sandwich. I would give each reuben about five minutes, or until all cheese is melted.

Over the years of this annual celebration, one question continued to tug at the back of my mind. Do we actually have any Irish heritage, or do we pretend to be Irish as an excuse to eat these amazing sandwiches. The mystery has been solved thanks to an Ancestry.com DNA test. I am a whopping 4% Irish. If that’s not a reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I don’t know what is.

More so, it’s a reason to spend time with the family. Behind every tradition are the people surrounding it. We’ve done this for as long as I can remember, even with more schedule conflicts as the grandkids got older. If you don’t have a family celebration surrounding a holiday, it’s never too late to start.

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