Posts Tagged ‘sauerkraut’

Sometimes, you find a dish that just clicks; However it works, it works for you.  This brings us, totally unsurprisingly, to what might be my favorite food of all time: The Reuben Sandwich. A few years back I wrote about my love for Reubens. But even before Cabbages & Kings was a thought in my head, I had briefly mentioned the affinity on a much shittier and somehow-less-followed blog I wrote at the time. I could literally go on and on about how much I love this sandwich, but for the sake of brevity I won’t.

What I’m really getting at is that the combination works across near-infinite formats: Pizza, Tacos, Nachos, Egg Rolls, Lasagna. If there’s a dish you can think of, I’m sure somebody has figured out a way to put corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Russian dressing on it. Of the countless Reubens and Reuben-adjacent dishes I’ve had, I’ve never had one quite like this.


Reuben on a stick? Sign me up. As far as food-on-a-stick goes, the classic Corn Dog is pretty run of the mill. Fixing it up into a Reuben taking a bit of extra effort, but it is well worth it.

Corned beef, surprisingly, doesn’t work quite so well on a skewer. Depending on what cut you get, I find it’s either too tender to hold shape well or too tough to get a good bite off while leaving it attached. I opted for kielbasa instead. For the batter, rye and caraway are a no-brainer. Shredded swiss in the batter could work really well, but I didn’t like the way the final product looked, so I nixed it altogether. A little kraut, a little Russian (Thousand Island, only if you insist), and you’re good to go.

Reuben Corn Dogs, adapted from ChefSteps
makes 4

  • Bread Flour, 80g
  • Rye Flour, 80g
  • Granulated Sugar, 66g
  • Cornmeal, finely ground, 25g
  • Kosher Salt, 9 g
  • Caraway Seed, ground, 8g
  • Baking Powder, 3g
  • Egg, beaten, 80g (about 1.5 eggs, beat 2 then measure by weight)
  • Whole Milk, 145g
  • Kielbasa, 4 5-inch lengths
  • Russian Dressing, as needed (recipe follows)
  • Sauerkraut, as needed

Preheat frying oil to 375F.  Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients, mixing to combine. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Transfer batter to a tall container. Pat sausage dry with a paper towel and skewer onto stick or toothpicks. Dip sausages into batter, up to 1/4 inch onto the stick. While holding the stick, fry sausages until batter begins to set, about 10 seconds. Drop into oil and continue cooking until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Top with Russian dressing and sauerkraut.

Russian Dressing
makes about 3/4 cup

  • Mayonnaise, 1/2 cup
  • American Chili Sauce, 1 tablespoon
  • Parsley, minced, 1 tablespoon
  • Yellow Onion, minced, 1 teaspoon
  • Horseradish, grated, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Worcestershire Sauce, 1/4 teaspoon
  • Kosher Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients. Allow to sit overnight or at least 12 hours.


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Unfortunately, we’re all human. And as such, we make mistakes. It’s only natural; a slip of the hand, timing that was just a little off, poor communication, you name it. Shit happens. However, when you can take a step back and learn from your mistakes, everything works out in the end. Spanish philosopher George Santayana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Whether it’s in the kitchen, at the office, or in whatever it is that you do, we’ve all been there, and we all know the one thing that, given the opportunity, we would go back and make right. The 40th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge is all about taking just that opportunity: Revisiting some of our biggest screw-ups.

When I try to think of a dish that I royally blew it on, nothing comes to mind quicker that Oktoberfest week of last year’s cooking challenge. My idea was simple: take a few German classics and combine them into one delicious sandwich. Slow-cooked, crispy Schweinshaxe, homemade mustard with Weihenstephaner, and fermented Sauerkraut all piled on a homemade pretzel bun. In theory, it was going to be amazing. But I wouldn’t be talking about it now unless things took a turn for the worse.

At the time I was using my DIY immersion circulator, with which I had had a fair amount of success up until this point. The problem came with the Ziploc vacuum bags I had been using. I could never find a heat rating for the bags, but I had never had a problem with them before, so I figured it must be pretty high. Cooking the pork hocks around 190F must have been too much for the bags, because when I returned from a short errand run, I found that the bag had split open on the water bath, letting all the rendered fat run through the circulating pump. This caused the pump to overheat, and actually melt, essentially ruining the entire machine. In an attempt to salvage the pork, I threw it in to braise with a little beer and onions. It was okay, at best, but far from what I had in mind. The mustard was less of a disappointment, but still not great. I hadn’t read the base recipe properly, and ended up soaking the mustard seeds about half as long as was needed to soften them enough to grind to a good consistency. The end result was grainy and seedy and not very tasty. When I had tried to ferment sauerkraut, my apartment was still a little too warm and the cabbage ended up with a wonderful blue mold bloom. I ran back to the store to grab another cabbages and braised it down in vinegar to make a quick substitute. Again, it turned out okay at best. I think the biggest disater came in the form of the pretzel buns. While I’ve never been great at working with doughs, this one was especially rough. It didn’t knead for long enough, the yeast wasn’t bloomed properly, it didn’t have time to rise properly, and I didn’t fully understand the process of blanching them in a baking soda bath to give them their characteristic hard, brown crust. The end result was doughy, dense, underseasoned, and just generally ugly. However, I was determined that it was all going to work out, and at 11:30pm in the heat of frustration, took a terrible photo of the final product. With my iPod.


Bad food, bad photo, bad everything. I knew that if I had one shot at redemption, this needed to be it.


I brined the pork the same was as previously, 24 hours in Weihenstephaner and salt. Since my DIY setup, I’ve invested in an Anova immersion circulator and a FoodSaver vacuum sealer. Rather than cooking for a few hours at a higher temperature, which looking back on makes absolutely no sense, I cooked the pork hocks at 143F for 50 hours, as suggested by Rick Bayless for ultra-tender pulled pork. Shredded, then crisped up in a cast-iron skillet, the pork was perfect. As for the mustard, I used the same basic recipe, but executed it the way that it was supposed to be. Yellow and brown mustard seeds, softened in more Weihenstephaner and sweetened with a little maple syrup. The texture still came out a little more coarse than I had in mind, but it was miles ahead of it’s predecessor. As far as the pretzels and kraut, what I learned from my previous downfall was that there are certain times where trying to make something yourself doesn’t always make it better. I picked up a jar of organic fermented sauerkraut from the store and some fresh pretzels from the bakery. The last thing I had to change to make it all complete was the assembly of the dish itself. Rather than trying to shoehorn a bunch of things into a sandwich, which I have a bad habit of doing, I decided to serve them in a more traditional German style, as a main portion of meat with everything else on the side. I couldn’t be happier with the way that the dish turned out. The pork was tender and crispy, and the beer brine paired greatly with the flavors of the accompaniments. There’s no way to make this sound like I’m not being arrogant, but I almost wish that I messed things up more often so that I could revisit them like this and make them better however I can.

Sous-Vide Schweinshaxe
makes about 4 portions

  • Pork hocks*, 4 each
  • Weihenstephaner premium, 1 bottle
  • Kosher Salt, 1 cup
  • Water, as needed

Combine beer and salt in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil to dissolve salt. Transfer to a large container and top off with water to reach 1 gallon total volume. Allow brine to cool completely. Submerge pork in brine and let sit 24 hours, refrigerated. Heat a water bath to 143F. Remove pork from brine and seal in a vacuum bag. Cook pork at 143F for 50 hours. Remove pork from vacuum bag and shred. Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium high-heat. Cook pork in cast-iron skillet until crispy about minutes. Serve warm with pretzels, sauerkraut, and beer mustard (recipe follows).

Maple-Beer Mustard
makes about 1 cup

  • Brown Mustard Seeds, 3/4 cup
  • Yellow Mustard Seeds, 1/4 cup
  • Weihenstephaner Premium**, 1 cup
  • Garlic, minced, 2 cloves
  • Apple Cider Vinegar, 1/2 cup
  • Vermont Maple Syrup, 2 tablespoons

Soak brown and yellow mustard seeds with beer in a large bowl set in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Transfer the soaked mustard seeds to a food processor along with garlic, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup. Pulse until desired consistency is reached. Store in an airtight container. Flavors will continue to develop up to one week.

*Don’t use the smoked pork hocks you can find in most places. My local store normally carries weird cuts like the raw hocks, but if you can’t find them, pork butt or shoulder work very nicely for pulled pork.

**Any German or Belgian beer would work nicely for this recipe

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Every now and then, I like cooking. But sometimes, I really like cooking. Like, really really. The 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge has given me some great opportunities to expand my culinary horizons and try things I’ve never had or made before. This week, however, that isn’t the case. This week, I’m not expanding any horizons or reaching any new summits. I’m not trying a new cuisine, nor am I recreating an iconic dish from film or television. Week 47 of of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge is Brining and for me, that can only mean one thing: THE REUBEN SANDWICH.

A bit of background before I start going full-on fanboy over a sandwich: Brining is the process of soaking foods in a solution of sugar and salt. Through osmosis, the salt, sugar and any other spices in the solution are drawn into the food, yielding a moist, flavorful product. The process is most commonly done with deli meats, and even the upcoming Thanksgiving bird for next week, but can also be used for making some great pickles. At work, we brine our chicken and pork loins to keep them extra moist after cooking on the wood fired grill. Brining is also the process used to make Corned Beef. Made with either brisket or eye round, you probably most recognize corned beef either boiled with cabbage (fun fact: corned beef has absolutely nothing to do with Ireland) or ground up with potatoes for breakfast. While both of these options are delicious, my favorite iteration of corned beef is piled in the classic Reuben Sandwich.

The reuben is a sandwich consisting of rye bread, corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and either Russian or Thousand Island dressing. Toasted up until crispy and melty, the reuben is a classic at delis across the country. The origins of the sandwich, are not as cut-and-dry as the ingredients. One story is that of Reuben Kulakofsky, owner of Central Market in Omaha, Nebraska. In the 1920’s, Kulakofsky and company regularly met at Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel to play poker. Throughout the day, the group would save a few cents out of each pot and order a late night snack from the hotels kitchen. The snacks generally consisted of cold cuts, bread, salads and condiments from which the gamblers would assemble their own sandwiches. Charles Schimmel, fellow gambler and owner of the Blackstone, enjoyed Kulakofsky’s favorite concoction so much that he added it to the menu of the hotel and named it after the Lituanian immigrant. A opposing  story postulates that the sandwich originated in 1914 at Reuben’s Delicatessen and Restaurant in New York City. Owner Arnold Reuben created the sandwich at the late night request of actress Annette Seelos who said “Reuben, make me a sandwich, make it a combination, I’m so hungry I could eat a brick.” The sandwich consisted of turkey, ham, coleslaw and Russian dressing. What is the true origin of the sandwich? We’ll probably never know for certain. However, I prefer the story of Kulakofsky. As a market owner and Eastern-European immigrant, the components of a reuben seem to be more in line with his sensibilities and tastes than they would of a new york deli owner. In addition, the reuben described by Arnold Reuben seems to be more akin to the Rachel sandwich, which uses turkey and coleslaw in place of corned beef and sauerkraut. The other great debate amongst sandwich aficionados is Thousand Island vs Russian dressing. From my own research, I can’t find a definitive answer one way or the other. What I did find is that Thousand Island and Russian dressing are nearly identical, the only difference being that Russian dressing contains horseradish. Many proponents of Russian as the original claim that it was made with yogurt and caviar to make it authentically Russian, but I haven’t been able to find any sources to confirm or refute this. Which ever sauce you choose, the reuben is a tasty, tasty sandwich.

I think my love for the reuben first started in a class at CIA. In the Quantity Foods Production class, students prepare vast amounts of food (in technical terms, a shitload) to practice high-volume production and service. The class isn’t necessarily focused on new techniques or classical preparations, we made sandwiches, soups, burgers, tacos, things that were easy  pickups and would sell easily.  One day, I was on a station that was picking up… it. The reuben. At the time, I had never even heard of it, much less ever having tried it before. Our chef instructor, one of the best chefs and better teachers of my time at the CIA, was very insistent on people trying everything that was on the menu, especially if it was something they hadn’t had before. So I had the sandwich for our family meal. It was like nothing I had ever had before. As I’ve mentioned multiple (multiple) times, I love all things sandwich. Since I was a kid, it was always been my dream to open up a high-end sandwich shop. The reuben, beyond all else, became the sandwich to end all sandwiches. In a blog I wrote last year, I had to decide what I would request as my final meal if I were ever on death row. Accompanied by some childhood favorites,  the reuben was the star of the show. When I go to a restaurant, I almost can’t help myself if they have one on the menu, which has also led to many, many disappointing experiences. Since that first sandwich at school, I’ve always wanted to do the whole thing myself: bake bread, brine my own corned beef, the works. This week, I finally had my chance.


To start off my sandwich, and to count for this weeks theme, I had to make the corned beef. I made my brine using a homemade blend of pickling spices, sugar, kosher salt, and a bit of curing salt.Brisket is the traditional cut for corned beef, but with a lack of brisket at the store, Eye Round was the next best cut. After brining for five days, I vacuumed sealed the beef with carrots, celery, onion, and more of the pickling spice and sous vide it at 140F for about 30 hours. Various sources said the cooking time should be anywhere from 24 to 72 hours for that particular cut, with 30 hours seeming to be the most common. After taking it out of the water bath, I kind of wish that I had gone for just 24 hours. The beef was very tender and sliced well, but was a little bit dry. While the corned beef is all well and good, you have to have a base for the sandwich. I considered going out to a bakery and picking up a nice loaf of rye bread, but decided that if I was going all out with the beef, I had to bake my own bread too. After many unsuccessful attempts at bread recently, I was glad to see that this one came out perfectly. Dark rye loaf with caraway seeds and coarse salt. Awesome. I looked into a few different recipes for Thousand Island dressing, and found that the bottled stuff isn’t actually too far off from what you would make yourself. To keep in the deli spirit and also save myself a bit of time and hassle, I picked up a bottle of dressing, as well as some sauerkraut (I really don’t have a month or two to ferment my own). All that’s left was the making. I piled everything up high, as is customary in NYC, and griddled it to golden perfection. It was everything I could have hoped for. All the flavors I remember from that first sandwich back in school were there, but it was just… better. The caraway seeds made the bread spicy and herbaceous. The brining and slow cooking of the beef made the flavor unparalleled to the deli counter. The sauerkraut, swiss, and dressing were just the icing of the cake that is the Reuben. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll now be off to eat this sandwich until it kills me.

Corned Beef Eye Round

  • Beef Eye Round, trimmed, 4lbs
  • Pickling Spice, 1/2 cup
  • Sugar, 1/2 cup
  • Kosher Salt, 1 1/2 cups
  • Instacure #2, 1 teaspoon
  • Cold Water, 1 gallon
  • Carrot, chopped, 1 each
  • Onion, sliced, 1/2 each
  • Celery Stalks, chopped, 2 each

Combine 1/4 cup pickling spice, sugar, salt, Instacure, and 1/2 gallon of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add remaining cold water and chill to room temperature. Submerge beef in brine and allow to sit for 5 days, refrigerated. Remove beef from brine and *vacuum seal with remaining pickling spice and vegetables. Cook in a 140F water bath for 24 hours. Shock in an ice bath until completely cooled.

*Alternatively, simmer beef in water with carrot, celery, onion and pickling spice until tender, about 2 hours.

Reuben Assembly

  • Seeded Rye Bread, 2 slices
  • Thousand Island Dressing
  • Corned Beef, thinly sliced
  • Sauerkraut
  • Swiss or Emmentaler Cheese

Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter and invert. Spread inside of bread with Thousand Island dressing. Top with 2-3 ounces corned beef, sauerkraut, and swiss cheese. Top with bread. Griddle in a hot pan, under weight, or in a sandwich press until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

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Trinksprüche! The 39th Week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge celebrates one of the oldest traditions in the world: Oktoberfest!  Completely unrelated to Rocktoberfest or Toyotathon, Oktoberfest is the worlds oldest festival, held in Munich every year since 1810.  In October 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig was married to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The royal family threw a grand festival to celebrate, and invited the citizens of Munich to join. Since it’s inception, the festival has grown to to include horse races, carnival rides and of course, BEER. Along with food, beer is the highlight of Oktoberfest. The Reinheitsgebot is a Bavarian beer purity law that you’ve probably heard of in a terrible beer commercial. Written in 1516, the law states that beers may only be brewed with barley, hops, water, and yeast and must be at least 6% alcohol by volume. Only 6 beers brewed according to these exacting standards are allowed to be served at Oktoberfest. In addition to beer, Oktoberfest showcases an immense variety of traditional German cuisine: Sausages, pickles and sauerkraut, pretzels and street foods of all kinds. In order to celebrate all that Oktoberfest has to offer, I decided to combine a few of my favorite bits and pieces.

And of course, I made a sandwich. I can’t help myself sometimes.  Anyway…..


The base: A traditional soft-pretzel. For a sauce, I went with some homemade whole-grain mustard with German beer. Sauerkraut is a staple of many German dishes, and I happened to have some left over from Talk-Like-A-Pirate day. And for the main event: Schweinshaxe! A signature Bavarian dish, schweinshaxe are braised or roasted pork hocks. Normally served as a main dish, the schweinshaxe made an excellent addition to the sandwich. I had originally planned on cooking the pork hocks sous vide, but there were…. complications. To make a long story short, I won’t be circulating anything any time soon. However, I managed to salvage the pork by braising it in the oven with beer. The result was meaty, beery and just what I had expected. My pretzel recipe needs a little work, but overall the sandwich was a success! The mustard was nicely spicy, and the acidity of the sauerkraut gave a really nice contrast to the fatty pork.


  • Beer*, 22oz
  • Water, 2 cups
  • Sugar, 1 cup
  • Salt, 1 cup
  • Pork Hocks, unsmoked, 3 each
  • Beer, or beef or pork stock, 2 quarts

Bring water to a boil. Add salt and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Remove from heat and add beer. Let brine cool completely.  Submerge pork hocks in brine and let sit overnight. Remove hocks from brine and soak in cold water to 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200F. In a roasting pan or deep casserole dish, add pork hocks and remaining beer. Cover in foil. Cook at 200F for 8 hours, or until meat pulls easily from bone. Pull meat from bones, discarding skin and connective tissues.

Beer Mustard

makes about 1.5 cups

  • Yellow Mustard Seeds, 1/3 cup
  • Brown Mustard Seeds, 1/3 cup
  • Cider Vinegar, 2/3 cup
  • Beer*. 1/4 cup
  • Brown Sugar, 1/4 cup

Combine mustard seeds with vinegar and beer. Let soak 8 hours, or overnight. Pulse seed mixture in a food processor until broken down to desired consistency. Add brown sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to an airtight container and store refrigerated overnight before serving.



makes about 3 cups

  • Butter, 3 tablespoons
  • Green Cabbage, shaved, 1 each
  • Onion, thinly sliced, 1 each
  • Apple Cider, 1 cup
  • Cider Vinegar, 1 cup
  • Caraway Seed, 1/4 cup (optional)

In a large pot, saute cabbage and onion in butter until they begin to become tender. Add cider, vinegar, and caraway seed and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until cabbage is completely tender. Store in an airtight container.


Soft Pretzels

makes 8 pretzels

  • Warm Water, 1 cup
  • Instant Dry Yeast, 1 package or 1/4 ounce
  • All-Purpose Flour, 2 3/4 cup
  • Sugar, 1 tablespoon
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon plus more for coating
  • Water, 6 cups
  • Baking Soda, 1/4 cup

Combine warm water and yeast, let sit 5 minutes. Combine flour, sugar and salt, whisking to combine. Combine flour mixture with yeast mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until combined and dough comes together, about 8 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and place into an oiled mixing bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 35 minutes. Press dough to release gasses and divide into 8 portions. Roll into logs to form pretzels, or shape into rounds for rolls. Cover with towel and allow to rise again for 20 minutes. While dough is rising, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. After water comes to a boil, add baking soda. Preheat oven to 425F. Cook pretzels in baking soda solution for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking sheet covered with oiled parchment paper. Sprinkle pretzels with salt. Bake at 425F until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.


*For the beer, I used Weinstephaner Oktoberfest. Weinstephaner is the world’s oldest brewery, operating out of Munich, so I figured it would be perfect to use for an Oktoberfest dish. If you can’t find it, feel free to use your favorite ale.

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