Corned Beef Reuben

March 23, 2011

A day late and a dollar short, as always.

I decided to try my hand at corning so I could participate in Charcutepalooza this month, but I forgot that I was supposed to post this on the 15th. Oops. It’s cool, though, I didn’t really want to be one more plate of corned beef at Saint Paddy’s day, and I let my creativity and Teutonic roots take me in a different direction.

The neat thing about corning (long-brining meat for 60 hours or more) is that it isn’t for brisket alone. Besides, I didn’t have any brisket – for some reason, whenever I go in on half-beeve splits of grass-fed beef, I never get any brisket. I did, however, get a nice, cylindrical rump roast that I figured would cure well. After all, it is just another cut from a leg; it’s just from the back instead of the front.

I prepared my generic brine by combining kosher salt, pink salt (nitrates are how curing happens), brown sugar and water. I wanted to have a slightly aqvavit flavor so I added caraway seed, a couple clove buds and juniper and allspice berries to the usual peppercorns and crushed bay. Then I got a wild hair up my ass and added grains of paradise to the mix for a little zing. I massaged a little crushed garlic into my roast and then immersed it in its bath. Saint Paddy’s Day came and went, and on the 5th day I pulled the little beaut out and rinsed it off.

Here’s when things went south.

I pressure-cooked it with an onion and some celery. I fully intended for this to be a nice Sunday roast dinner with new potatoes, carrots and peas and all that, but when I sliced up the roast – so succulent! so rosy! – it tasted exactly like hot dogs. I mean exactly.

I slightly panicked. What the hell was I going to do with a 3 pound log of hot dog? “Nitraaaates!” I cursed, shaking my fist. I contemplated dipping the whole thing in cornmeal batter and dropping it into a fryer. Instead, I made my potatoes, carrots and peas, and I dribbled a rich beef jous over everything. It was salty, but edible. The next day, I calmed down and came to my senses.

Of course. A Reuben. Forehead slap.

I picked up a nice loaf of rye and some sliced Swiss. I had everything else already in my coffers. I whipped together some thousand island dressing by mixing some mayo, some of smoky-sweet roasted tomato ketchup that I canned last summer, a few spoonfuls of homemade green tomato relish and chopped dill pickle (also homemade) with a little blob of gochujang for heat. I cobbled together a sauerkraut of sorts by chopping together some chowchow, a wad of pickled cabbage and some pickled Walla Walla sweet onions. My tireless food preservation efforts had once again come to my rescue, and I gave myself a smug pat on the back.

I assembled the sandwich and carefully toasted it on my lovely cast iron flat-top. A nice German beer, some good pickles (currently taking up residence in my fridge: baby beets, dilly beans and hot Kosher dills) and the day was saved.

It really was.

13 Responses to Corned Beef Reuben

  1. March 23, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    You shoulda baked a big-ass bun and served the fucker whole like a giant hot dog.

  2. March 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Beautiful sandwich! I wonder if a longer corning would have improved the taste. I don’t use a brine (and use the old fashioned rub with that toxic Morton stuff, in fact) so this may be off, but I go 5 days per inch-thickness of meat. With that in mind, you’d probably need a couple more weeks of curing. (It could very well be that brining is a wholly different set of guidelines, though.)

    PS. New reader of your blog, and I love your sense of humor.

  3. March 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Jube – Oh, but I so wanted to shove the fucker on a giant stick.

    Eugenia – Most brining I’ve done is on pork or poultry, and that’s only for a few hours or overnight to retain moisture. The wet curing that is corning usually doesn’t need much time to fully permeate – usually only a couple of days. Luckily, a sit in the fridge overnight after cooking did wonders for its flavor.

  4. March 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Great save.

  5. March 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    That’s too bad that it didn’t turn out exactly as you had hoped but a reuben is a great save!!

  6. Syd
    March 23, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    I would dive face-first into that sandwich. Looks good to me.

  7. March 24, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Who would have thunk the mystery ingredient in hot dogs was grains of paradise?! But the rueben looks magic.

  8. ken
    March 24, 2011 at 6:31 am

    IT looks fabulous, moist, and certainly nothing wrong with tasting like hot dogs, right? I especially love that hair up your ass – I mean the grains of paradise. One of my favorites, in everything, naturally. Try cubebs too. Or szechuan pepper corns. I’ve got this odd fagara relative from Nepal which working wonders in brined meat.

  9. lo
    March 24, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    It’s really a gorgeous slab of meat. No denying that.

    I’m such a huge sucker for Reuben sandwiches that this doesn’t seem even remotely like a consolation prize to me.

  10. March 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I’ll be the first one to say it…the recipe for corned beef in Charcuterie is not very good. (Gasp!) To be fair, corn beef is not my favorite thing in the world, but still, that recipe is way too salty. Better to use the brine for pastrami (uses more sugar without leaving a sweet taste) and leave it in for a max of 3 days. In fact, two days works fine. Then let it rest for a day or so in the fridge, uncovered, to let the salt distribute and settle evenly. I also smoke it, which adds a fantastic flavor.

    At least you didn’t let that hunk of meat go to waste. The sandwich looks good. Reuben and hash is the only way I like corned beef.

  11. Roger
    March 26, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Shame on you for buying french cast iron when the fabulous Lodge cast iron is made in TN and is frankly a better and less expensive product.

  12. March 27, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I have about a 3 lb. brisket that I trimmed from a larger piece I smoked this weekend.
    I may have to chat with you about how to make pastrami.

  13. March 28, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Holy moses, I was drooling after your tweet about this. Now, I’m just dying. This sandwich looks TO DIE FOR. thanks for sharing.