“Will you make it a corned beef on rye”
He’d sing with a gleam in her eye
Oh, the headlights were burning
And the big wheels were turning” – Kinky Friedman, Highway Cafe
Washington D.C. is definitely a foodie town, right? We have pretty much every type of cuisine you can think of and it’s often very very delicious.
However, there are few things this Cleveland girl thinks the DC area just don’t do right. Those things include:
- Hot Italian Subs – Guys! It’s like a cold Italian sub except you run it through a pizza oven before adding the lettuce, mayo and dressing. The cheese gets melty and the edges of the meat that stick up get a little crispy. It’s delicious! But for some reason nearly every pizza place and sandwich shop in the DC area refuses to serve their Italian subs warm. Dear Italian Store, if you are listening, borrow an oven from Quiznos and let’s get this party started!
And don’t tell me that Potbelly serves a Hot Italian Sub. Technically, they do but it’s not the same. It’s just… not.
- Ice Cream – In any Cleveland area neighborhood there is a good locally owned ice cream store.
In DC, we get Baskin Robbins and Dairy Queen. Now Dairy Queen is fine, if you want soft serve. OR a chicken finger basket. That shit is banging. But I refuse to step foot in a Baskin Robbins or even a Carvel. Their approach to ice cream is unenthusiastic and almost clinical. There is no joy in their service or their sundaes. Again, it’s not the same.
Notable exceptions include Pop’s and the Creamery in Old Town Alexandria. They know what’s up. They are right across the street from each other but you also have to fight with the throngs of Old Town pedestrians and traffic to get there. Why are their two places right next door to each other when the rest of the area is an ice cream desert (or dessert?). Good pun, Bee. Spread the ice cream love DC – geographically speaking!
- And finally getting to the real point of this article, DC is severely lacking in good old fashioned Jewish Deli fair like bagels and corned beef (and NO, Einstein’s doesn’t count). We can talk about bagels another time but today, for me, it’s all about the Corned Beef Reuben. The perfect combination of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing on Rye. Now, yes, MANY restaurants around here offer a Reuben but not a good one. The bread is always too soggy, the ratios of meat to toppings are off, and their corned beef is always lacking in flavor.
This is a situation where if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself! Enter my Reuben toasts. I made these Saturday for a friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party and they were a huge hit. Making the Reuben into an open faced, self-contained vessel is also a great way to share them with a crowd. If you, like me, love a Reuben. The recipe is below. Enjoy!
Makes 16 toasts.
1 Loaf of Marble Rye Bread (regular rye works too)
1 lb of Deli Corned Beef (homemade is better, obvi but this works too)
16oz of your favorite Saur Kraut (it doesn’t have to be fancy we are going to doctor it up)
16 slices of Swiss Cheese
Jar of Thousand Island Dressing
2 TBSPs of Caraway Seeds (divided)
3 TBSPs of Butter
1 Tsp of Salt
1 Tsp of Pepper
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
Start by cutting the slices of rye bread down the center into two halves. Place the halves of bread onto a cookie sheet (you may need to use two cookie sheets depending on the size of the bread) and toast them in the oven for 5 minutes on each side. Make sure it’s pretty crispy on both sides. This will prevent your toasts from getting soggy and help them hold up if serving them at a party.
While the bread is toasting place the sauerkraut into a small saucepan with the butter, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of caraway seeds. Cook together over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the butter is melted and everything is combined. Butter and sauerkraut may seem like a strange combo but it makes ALL the difference. Trust me.
When the bread is toasted you can begin assembling the toasts. The order of ingredients is important here.
Place a layer of corned beef on each slice, followed by a big spoonful of kraut, then a small dollop of dressing. Finally cover with a slice of Swiss cheese.
When your toasts are assembled place them back in the oven for 5 minutes to get the cheese a little melty.
After 5 minutes, remove the toasts and sprinkle with remaining caraway seeds. I also like to sprinkle with a little smoked paprika for extra color and flavor.
Set your oven to broil on high and broil the toast until the cheese is bubbly and a little golden brown on top.
Let them cool a little and pile them high on a platter and then enjoy! If you have leftover Thousand Island, why not put it into a little ramekin so that your guests can add extra to their toast if they’d like?