Turkey Reuben sandwich

Turkey Reuben 1

The past few days have all been about Thanksgiving. Gobble gobble, good people of the turkey celebrating world!

What is somewhat remarkable about this year’s Thanksgiving is that it coincides with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. It turned out that it’s an extremely rare occasion that all of us will only witness once in our lifetime – no exception. Last time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving came together in 1888, and it won’t happen again for the next 79,000 years. Unless something changes fundamentally in cryogenic technology, this is as good as it gets.

thanksgivukkah.modern.tribePop culture along with media named the convergence of the two holidays Thanksgivukkah (a portmanteau that I personally find hilarious). The web is full of recipes suggesting a fusion of turkey (which actually happens to be kosher) and Hanukkah dishes. Graphic artists made their mark too.

In my family, we decided not to double up on holidays and celebrate each of them separately and in style. Wednesday night, 11/27, marked the kindling of the first candle and deliciousness of latkes. On Thursday, 11/28 – the actual Thanksgiving day – we enjoyed a mostly traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey elegantly posed on prime china, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, cranberry and walnut sauce, and giblet gravy keeping her company.

Thanksgiving DinnerCandlelight reflected off our turkey’s crispy body parts and our excited, hungry eyes. Bogle Essential RedWe had wine, and a good one too – a bottle of 2009 Essential Red Bogle (that I highly recommend).

The rest of the holiday weekend was the intersection of both worlds, with latkes leftovers and menorah candle lighting, and turkey concoctions, and of course lots of love, gratitude and warmth. Our 9-month old probably thought it’s a new norm – Mommy and Daddy are at home 4 days in the row.

Speaking of turkey concoctions … There is this one dish – Turkey Reuben sandwiches –  that we loved last year, and it only takes 15 min to make, so we made it again. As lean and calorie happy as turkey can be, this recipe actually adds quite a bit of stuff to the otherwise physically fit bird. It takes the meaning of holidays to its traditional definition – enjoy now, pay later – except this is about calorie indulgence and not credit cards. But it’s OK, you know, because we’re still quite a ways from the New Year’s that, as we all know, is all about new resolutions. And unless you celebrate some kind of special New Year’s that’s already happened, go ahead, loosen your belt and enjoy this quick yet delicious turkey recycler.

Turkey Reuben sandwich

As a true admirer of history, I wanted to see if there is any peculiar story behind the Reuben sandwich. I imagined a fleeing Russian-Jewish immigrant, escaping Bolsheviks or Stalin, hardships of crossing the many borders, going through Europe and onto a ship headed to America, and then finally settling down in Brooklyn and opening a classic Jewish deli. I imagined that the sandwich’s namesake was a guy named Rubin or Reuben, and that the owner is still alive, or at least his descendants still own the place, and it’s one of those New York places with memorabilia on the walls, older style cabins, a pickle barrel, and a chef / server full of attitude and pride a la The Soup Nazi. I imagined all those things, and as a matter of fact some of the fruits of my imagination were right on the spot.

The Reuben sandwich has 3 possible originating sources:

  • A Lithuania-born grocer from Nebraska, Reuben Kulakofsky, is one of possible inventors, although there was apparently a group of people that helped promote the newly invented miracle of a sandwich. According to another story and within the same setting, a chef at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, Bernard Schimmel, was the one who made the first Rueben for Reuben Kulakofsky who was enjoying a poker game and simply ordered a “corned beef and sauerkraut” sandwich. This happened somewhere between 1920 and 1935, highly imprecise for such a close date in history.
  • A second origin involves Arnold Reuben, a German, who owned a place in New York called Reuben’s Delicatessen. Multiple sources point to the fact that he made the first sandwich that he called “The Reuben Special” in 1914.
  • Finally, there is another version, although it is related to Arnold Reuben. A New York accountant named William Hamerly allegedly invented Reuben sandwich and dedicated it to Arnold Reuben for his charitable work and contribution to New York City. This one is a bit out there, in my opinion.

My money is on Arnold Reuben and his New York delicatessen. I mean, that’s the closest version to my imagination, after all. Nothing against Omaha, Nebraska really … but just how could a Reuben sandwich not be from New York???

Having scanned through Reuben variations, I found a few common themes. It’s mostly made with some kind of deli meat, sauerkraut or coleslaw, Russian or Thousands Islands dressing or mustard, and, of course, rye bread.

Our feature is a turkey version of the Reuben sandwich. Wikipedia calls it Rachel Reuben, we call it simply Turkey Reuben, just like the recipe source calls it (Gourmet Holiday magazine, 2011 special holiday edition).

Ingredients (for 2 sandwiches)

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. sweet pickle relish
2 tsp. cider vinegar
4 slices rye bread
6 oz sliced cooked turkey
¾ cup drained sauerkraut
¼ lb sliced Swiss cheese (4 to 8 slices)
3 tbsp. unsalted butter


  • Whisk together mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, vinegar, and 1/8 tsp. each of salt and pepper Spread on bread and make sandwiches with turkey, sauerkraut and cheese
  • Melt butter in a 12’’ nonstick skillet over medium heat, then cook sandwiches, turning once with a spatula, until bread is golden and cheese is melted, about 6 minutes total

Turkey Reuben 2Cuisintips

These sandwiches are awesome. The only suggestion I have is to use 2 tbsp. of butter (instead of 3), like I did – it reduces calorie count without any impact on taste or aesthetics.


Long live the Reuben. I look forward to making it again and again, and introducing here new varieties of this very popular, delicious and good-looking sandwich. We effectively reduced the turkey leftover mass by about a third, and yet gave that turkey a second life. Gobble gobble, good people!

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