Grilled Reubens are my family’s idea of sandwich comfort food heaven, and it’s easy to see why. The origin of this superb sandwich is hotly contested, with some attributing it’s development to Omaha restauranteur Reuben Kulakofsky during the 1920s and others giving the nod to New York delicatessen owner Arnold Reuben in the 1930s. Whoever is responsible, there is something magical about this grilled sandwich’s combination of seeded rye or pumpernickel bread, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian or mustard dressing.
The robust flavor and popularity of the Reuben sandwich would make it ideal party food except for two issues: it requires much last-minute assembly and grilling, which doesn’t work well for a crowd, and it’s famously messy. It drips, it oozes, it falls apart, it winds up in your lap. If eaten on the go, it leaves in its wake dribbles of sauerkraut, molten cheese, and sauce on the carpet and sofa cushions. So how does one put the flavors of this sandwich into finger food parcels that can both be cooked ahead and then popped straight into the mouth? The following recipe provides one answer. In it, I have wrapped and baked Reuben sandwich ingredients in bite-sized seeded rye pastry. And the verdict of my expert test panel? These appetizers are not quite as tidy as carrot sticks but are definitely a crowd pleaser.
Although I have used homemade pastry dough with rye flour for this recipe, you may find it more convenient to substitute prepared crescent roll or pie dough. Please refer to the notes below the recipe for the minor modification of the recipe required for this purpose.
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup rye flour
1/3 cup butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3-5 tablespoons cold water
For the filling:
1 cup coarsely chopped cooked corned beef (approximately 1/2 pound)
3/4 cup sauerkraut, drained and squeezed dry
6 ounces Emmental or other Swiss cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 1/2 tablespoons prepared Russian dressing (or 2 tablespoons mayonnaise mixed with 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 teaspoon honey mustard, 1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish, and a few drops of Tabasco sauce)
- Place the flours, sugar, salt, and caraway seeds in the bowl of a food processor or chopper and pulse twice. Add the cubed butter and briefly pulse until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. Add the cold water, tablespoon by tablespoon, pulsing briefly after each addition, until the dough just (important!) begins to assemble. Gather the dough into a shaggy ball and refrigerate, wrapped, for approximately one hour.
- Roll the dough out to a level 1/16-inch thickness on wax paper or plastic wrap. Using a long knife, cut the dough into 24 squares measuring approximately 2 inches on each side, as shown in the photo above.
- In the center of each square, layer, in order, approximately 1 teaspoon chopped corned beef, 1/4 teaspoon Russian dressing, 3/4 teaspoon dry sauerkraut, and 1 cube of cheese, as shown in the photo above.
- For each square, fold the corners of the dough over the filling and place each in a well of an ungreased mini-muffin pan (preferred), as shown in the photo above, or on a baking sheet. If you do not plan to bake these immediately, freeze them until ready to do so.
- Bake in the top half of a preheated 380 degree F. oven for approximately 15-18 minutes or until the pastry and cheese topping are lightly browned. Serve immediately, or you may bake them in advance and reheat them just before serving. This recipe may be doubled.
· If using prepared crescent roll or pie dough for this recipe, roll out the dough according to the instruction shown in step 2 above, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, press the seeds lightly into the dough, and proceed with the balance of the recipe, as shown above.
· Some or all of these appetizers may be converted to vegetarian Reuben “Sandwich” bites by simply leaving out the corned beef.