Reuben Pie

On a road trip about 15 years ago, I had a culinary epiphany. Little did I know how well the
initial test would turn out, or how much demand there would be. I conceived something we like to call Reuben Pie.

If you like Reuben sandwiches , you’re likely going to love this one. For those not in the know, the Reuben is an American hot sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, grilled between slices of rye bread. There are plenty of variations out there, but only one real Reuben.

This dish is not an inexpensive one due to the ingredients, and it’s deceptive in it’s
simplicity. Making one, let alone two of these things is a labor of love.
Rueben Pie
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
1 raw pizza crust or preferred dough
2 lbs corned beef sliced at 0.5

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Grated Swiss cheese

1 pound Swiss cheese, shredded or grated
1 15 oz jar of sauerkraut, drained, rinsed, and pressed
1 bottle Thousand Island or Russian salad dressing
10″ spring-form pan
Parchment paper

Directions:

Grate the cheese and set aside.

Drain, rinse and press as much water as you can out of the sauerkraut.

Line the bottom of a spring-form pan with parchment paper and lock the ring in place. You may cut away the excess paper on the outside of the ring, or leave it for a larger “handle” when removing the pie after baking. If your pans are non-stick, don’t bother spraying them olive oil. If using a cast iron or other pan, spray the sides and line the bottom as with the spring-form.

Roll out the pizza crust and fit it into the pan. Be sure to cover the bottom and sides,
pinching any seams or holes closed, and pushing the dough into the edge where the side meets the bottom. You may have to cut away corners and pinch them in to fill gaps along the sides.

Place in a 400F oven for about ten minutes to give the crust a little more definition. If you
have an extra pan that will fit to keep the sides upright, I suggest using it.

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Upon removing the crust from the oven, remove the shaping pan (if you used one) and begin layering in your other ingredients. Begin with a thin layer of dressing, spread evenly around the bottom and sides. Add a sprinkle of Swiss. Add a layer of meat, thick enough so that you cannot see the bottom crust. Spread a layer of kraut around, as thick as you like. Next is a layer of Swiss.

Begin again with the dressing and continue layering until the pan is full. Be sure that your
top layer is cheese and that nothing is hanging over the edge of the pan.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes to ensure cheese melts and dish is heated through.

Once out of the oven, unlock and remove the ring from the pan. Using the edge of the parchment paper slide the pie onto a cutting surface. Allow to sit for three or four minutes before cutting.

Cut into eight wedges and serve with deli mustard and kosher pickles.

 
I’ve made some notes on the process and ingredients I prefer for this dish, as well as some
excellent alternatives. You might find some or all of them helpful.

DSC_0176The Pan
I use a spring-form pan for this dish for it’s ease in releasing the pie once it’s baked. A
deep dish cake pan or cast iron would do as well, provided you don’t mind it getting scratched from having the pie cut in it. This is not a dish that turns out like a cake with anyreliability, tending more to oozing cheese everywhere.

Parchment Paper
Parchment paper in the bottom of the pan will make it easier to remove. With a spring-form, you simply unlock the ring and lift it away, then slide the parchment paper and it’s burden onto a cutting surface. With any other type of pan, the corners of the parchment paper may be used to lift the pie out of the pan and onto a cutting surface. Parchment paper also helps give the bottom crust a crunchier texture, reminiscent of the grilled bread of a Reuben sandwich.

DSC_0180Pizza Crust
A pizza crust found in the canned biscuit case is readily available and easy to use. If you
have other breads available (at one time I could get pre-made rye bread dough at the grocery), or prefer to make your own, it’s entirely up to you. Be sure that with whatever crust you choose, the flavors will be compatible with the filling ingredients. We have tried pizza crust, rye, sourdough, and pumpernickel over the years and found them all to be quite tasty.

DSC_0192Corned Beef
Corned beef is typical of the Reuben sandwich, though you may prefer pastrami. Pastrami or even a mix of the two meats is perfectly acceptable. While I have always preferred corned beef sliced extremely thin, you may choose to use thicker slices (tougher) or even chunks/strips if you have home-cooked a corned beef and have leftovers. I know – such leftovers are not likely. Thinly sliced meat will not only allow fats to more readily cook out to combine with the other ingredients, it will give you a more tender texture overall, and allow your cheese to melt into the meat as well as the kraut layers.

Turkey also makes a decent Reuben style sandwich, though I have yet to try it in a Reuben pie. White meat especially is rather dry on it’s own and should be compensated for by adding a bit of an oilier cheese such as Mozzarella to compensate.

DSC_0184Sauerkraut
There are actually several styles of kraut on the market. There is a sweetish kraut (Bavarian style), a red kraut, and the generally well known white sauerkraut. Most people are unaware that when buying commercial kraut, it should be drained of the can/jar fluids, and rinsed before being used. That’s a trick I learned from my father after he had spent some time in Germany. For this recipe, the less fluid in the kraut, the less fluid will run off and move down to make the bottom crust mushy, so be sure to press it well after rinsing.

Swiss Cheese
I recommend buying your cheese in block form and grating it yourself. You may slice it if you prefer, but you will not get the same coverage in the end. Pre-grated or shredded cheeses are commonly coated with an anti-caking agent such as corn starch. If you don’t want those extra calories and carbs, you might consider avoiding the temptation. Besides, pre-shredded Swiss is more expensive per pound than the block.

 

DSC_0200The Dressing
Russian dressing is reputed to be the original dressing used for the Reuben sandwich. Many restaurants over the years have switched to using Thousand Island due to it’s accessibility and popularity on salads. I like either dressing, though this time around Thousand Island was requested.

 

Pickles
Reuben sandwiches, being a deli creation, are generally served with a pickle spear or a whole kosher dill on the side. The same is true for the Reuben Pie. I do not recommend putting slices of pickle into the layering of the pie for a couple of reasons. Pickles hold a a lot of liquid, and it will bake out into your pie. While the flavor may be delicious, the potential for a mushy crust is not. Pickles also change texture somewhat when baked or otherwise heated, losing the lovely crunch and often becoming mushy themselves, rather like sliced squash.

If you like the recipe, experiment with different flavor combinations and let us know what you come up with.

Here are a couple of extra photos of the no-sauerkraut pie and the crust-less pie that I made at the same time. One was a special request, though not strictly in the Reuben tradition, while the crust-less pie was simply a test of the ingredients without bread.

 

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Stuffed Steak a la Italiana

Hello and welcome once again to a round of foraging in my kitchen to produce a meal worthy of my family. In this episode we will discover so many little treasures, and combine them to make a delicious main course!

Tucked away in my freezer was a package of thin cut beef steaks and a small parcel of pre-cooked, shredded chicken breast. A step down into the refrigerator produced fresh mozarella, sliced Provalone, shredded parmesan, some leftover tomato based pasta sauce, and couple of ounces of pepperoni.

What to do with such a combination? Stuffed Steak a la Italiana, of course!

Stuffed Steak a la Italiana
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Bake time: 45 minutes at 350F
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1-1/2# steak, thinly sliced
6 oz chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry parsley
1 tsp olive oil
Olive oil spray
6 oz Provolone, sliced thin
6 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced thick
2 oz Parmesan, shredded or sliced
2 oz pepperoni
8 oz pasta or pizza sauce

Spray a baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

Spray a saute pan with olive oil, heat, and sear steak on both sides. Add salt and pepper if desired. As steaks come out of the skillet, curl them like taco shells and place into the sprayed baking dish.dsc_0032

Lightly deglaze pan with water, then toss in chicken and spices, stirring over heat until everything is hot and thoroughly combined.dsc_0034

Lay strips of Provolone into the bottom of each curled steak. Using tongs, divide chicken mixture evenly into the curled steaks. Place another layer of Provolone to cover the chicken. Fold slices of pepperoni and tuck two into each steak. If you have extra, go ahead and add it.

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Spoon a teaspoonful of sauce into each steak, spreading to distribute fairly evenly.

Layer sliced mozzarella across top of entire dish, covering as much of the surface as possible. Spoon a teaspoonful of the sauce into each corner, then dole out the rest and spread it across the top of the mozzarella evenly. Any leftover Provolone may be sliced or diced and added to the top of the dish, as decoratively as you prefer. Sprinkle shredded (not powdered!) Parmesan evenly over the top.

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Bake for 45 minutes at 350F to ensure even heating of meats and melting of cheeses.dsc_0043

Serve on a bed of pasta, with a side of garlic bread, or any other preferred accompaniments.dsc_0044

 

Yes, I know things like this are normally rolled and tied, but I was lacking cooking string at the time and feeling a tad lazy besides.

If you have such things available, feel free to add fresh spinach, extra garlic, sauteed onion, mushrooms, olives, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Eggplant Lasagne

Don’t curl your lip until you hear me out. Seriously.

A friend recently mentioned that eggplant could be used in a lasagne instead of the traditional flat pasta. For me, being diabetic, this concept would be a huge bonus in my enjoyment of Italian cuisine, so I decided to give it a go.

As with any lasagne, this is not an inexpensive project, running between $35-40 before any sides like garlic bread or salad. On the flip side, it will feed a goodly number of people.

I used my crock pot to test this dish, though you are welcome to use a conventional oven, baking at 350F for between 1-2 hours depending on the depth of the baking dish you choose.

Eggplant Lasagne
Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours on High
Servings: 8-12

Ingredients:
2 med eggplant, sliced
salt
1 lb hamburger
12 oz tomato paste
20 oz crushed tomatoes, partially drained
24 oz tomato based spaghetti sauce of choice
2 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)
2 tsp onion powder (NOT onion salt!)
2 tsp parsley, dry or fresh
1 tbsp wheat germ (for added fiber)
1/2 oz basil leaves, coarsely chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
15 oz seedless black olives, drained, sliced or crushed
1 lb mozzarella, shredded
1 lb ricotta
8 oz Provolone, sliced or shredded
6 oz Parmesan, shredded or shaved

Prep 01

Eggplant in zipper seal bag layered with salt to pull out moisture.

Clean and slice the eggplant to about 1/8″ thickness, either in rounds or long flat pieces. Place in a zippy bag in layers, sprinkling salt between each layer. Seal and refrigerate overnight. This treatment will not only pull moisture out of the eggplants slices, it will also reduce any potential bitterness.

 

Prep 02 Salted Eggplant and drainage

Excess moisture collecting in bag.

Prep 03 Rinse

Rinsed eggplant.

When you are ready to assemble the dish, rinse the sliced eggplant and pat dry to further reduce additional moisture.

 

In a large bowl, mix dry spices including the parsley, pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, and wheat germ. Slice the black olives, or simply crush them between your fingers for a chunkier texture. Pitted olives have a hole on one end and a cross shaped cut on the other. Putting pressure on the sides of the olive will cause it to split into between 2 and 6 odd shaped chunks.  Cover the bowl and set aside.

 

Prep 04  sauce

Building the sauce.

Prep 05 Meat

Ground beef.

Crumble hamburger and pre-cook until completely cooked through. Drain off any fluid. For a less fatty dish, rinse the meat and allow to drain thoroughly before adding to sauce.

Prep 06 BAsil

Slicing basil.

 

Slice mushrooms. Roll and slice basil leaves.

 

 

Set up the crock pot with a liner and/or olive oil spray, as preferred.

First Layer Composite - Taylor

Photos by M. Taylor

Spread just enough sauce along the bottom of the crock to ensure other things won’t stick. Lay down first layer of eggplant slices. Add a layer of mushrooms, basil, mozzarella, ricotta, and a little parmesan and provolone. Cover with a layer of sauce.

 

Second Layer Composite - Taylor

Photos by M. Taylor

Repeat layering, adding the meat in on the next layer, until all ingredients are used up. Make sure that the very top of the dish is covered in cheeses.

Third Layer composite - Taylor

Photos by M. Taylor

Push any cheese bits that may fall under the lip of the lid away from the edge enough to ensure that the cheese should not touch the lid during cooking. This will help avoid a later mess that can be difficult to clean off the chrome, rubber, and/or glass of the crock pot lid.

Ready to serve

Ready to serve!

Allow to cook on high for 6 hours. A wooden skewer should pass down through the middle of the dish with little to no resistance.

Allow to rest for a few minutes after turning the heat off, about as long as it takes to bake up the garlic bread and toss your salad or other accompaniment. Serve and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Emplate - Asher

Photo by Asher

Please drop us a line if you try this one out, and let us know how your version turned out!

— Ann Cathey

Additional photos by M. Tanner and Asher (Thank you!)

 

 

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

I seem to have a hang-up on spaghetti squash recently! It’s tasty and filling and I’m collecting recipes that my family is enjoying in spite of the squash.

This is a quick and fairly simple recipe that can be baked up in either the oven or a crock pot. As ever, you may alter it to suit your own tastes. There are no hard and fast rules here.

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
DSC_0760Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 small to medium spaghetti squash
1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
1 – 40 oz package of frozen meatballs, or the equivalent home-made
1 – bottle or can spaghetti sauce, your choice of flavor/style
4-8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
12 oz mozzarella, sliced
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Garlic, basil, oregano, and other additional spices to taste

DSC_0753In the crock pot, place the spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, mushrooms and additional spices. Stir well and put the crock on medium heat.

 

Render the squash. Fold the stringy meat into the sauce, making sure that the squash is well coated.


Add a dusting of Parmesan on top of the squash mixture.

DSC_0757Place meatballs in crock, distributing evenly across the other ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.

 

DSC_0758Open the crock and arrange the slices of mozzarella across the top of the dish. Re-cover and cook on high for 2 more hours.

Serve with an additional dusting of Parmesan and a side of garlic bread.

 

–Ann Cathey

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

I finally got to try out one of the crock pot recipes I have been posting about. The Crock Pot Mac N Cheese, to be specific. As I am want to do, I just had to fiddle with it, double it, and see how it came out.

Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

Serves: 4-6 hungry people as a main dish, or 8-10 as a side scoop
Prep-Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 min on High then 3 hours on Low

Ingredients:
3 cups milk
24 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup melted and cooled butter
3 eggs
1/2 tsp each powdered garlic, powdered onion, and dried dill

6 cups shredded cheese
1 pound dry macaroni
8 ounces sliced ham

Directions:
Thoroughly spray your crock with cooking spray. If you use a liner, as I did, spray it anyway.

In a large bowl, whisk together the first group of ingredients and spices. Make sure the eggs are integrated well. Pour into your crock.

Add cheese, macaroni and ham. Stir gently to combine.

Cook on High for 30 minutes, stir gently, then reduce the heat to Low and continue cooking for 2 more hours.

Do not overcook or you may wind up with a cheesy glutinous mass like I did the first time.

If you half this recipe, do not half the eggs. I doubled everything in the original recipe except for the eggs.

Some things I noticed when pulling this together are that the wet mixture is rather thick feeling when whisked. This gave me high hopes as to the creaminess of the end product.

DSC_0377Just before you put the lid onto your pot, the contents look somewhat like a cream of cheese soup.

The aroma that starts wafting out of your kitchen at about 45 minutes is amazingly rich. I’m surprised that alone didn’t make me gain a couple of pounds.

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When it’s all done, there should be a nice crusty look to the top of the dish when you open the pot.

 

 

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The results came back fast. This mac-n-cheese is definitely a creamy, cheesy, melty sort of comfort food. It didn’t last long enough for leftovers to get to the fridge. The ham added a bit of flavor, an extra texture, and some extra protein. Next time I need to double the ham!

A nice crusty baguette, sliced and toasted, makes an excellent accompaniment.

— Ann Cathey

TexMex Spaghetti Squash

A friend saw a post I’d made on Facebook about playing with spaghetti squash recipes. He got excited and asked another friend to share the following recipe with me. I’ve done my best to recreate the dish from the notes I was given, and write it all up in a recipe format to share with readers.

Raymond’s TexMex Spaghetti Squash Bake

Ingredients:
1 medium spaghetti squash (2-3 lbs), rendered
1 lb ground beef or turkey
12 oz frozen chopped spinach
12 oz frozen cauliflower
1 medium onion, diced
Chili seasonings (chilipowder, paprika, cumin, garlic, oregano to taste)
15 oz can of black beans, drained
8 oz can of Ro-tel
8 oz Neufchatel or cream cheese
2-4 oz shredded cheddar or cheddar jack

Split the squash into halves. Remove the seeds and seed membranes. Spray the open areas of the squash with a light coating of olive oil. Place face down on a plate and microwave in five minute increments until the whole squash is softened. Scrape the insides of the squash out into a bowl and reserve.

In a large skillet, add a dollop of olive oil and diced onion. Cook until onion begins to clarify. Add the meat to brown and allow to crumble as if for tacos. Drain the meat if needed.

At any time after this point, if the mixture becomes too voluminous, move it into an oven safe pot or dutch oven and continue.

Add the spinach and cauliflower. Sprinkle the spices into the mixture. Fold into the meat and onion mixture and allow to cook until veggies soften.

When the meat and veggies are browned to taste, add the drained beans and can of Ro-tel.

Slice up the cream cheese and fold it into the mixture. Continue to mix until all ingredients are well integrated.

If you are still in the skillet at this point, move the mixture into an oven sfe pot or dutch oven.

Fold in the squash gently. Sprinkle a layer of grated cheese over the top of the mixture and place in preheated oven.

Bake at 375F for 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, additional shredded cheese, corn ships and/or tortillas, as desired.

Due to a lack of a conventional oven in my kitchen at the moment, I fell back on my trusty crock-pot to try this recipe out. It turned out to be a good way to go, with excellent results.

Crock-pot Variation

Set up your crock pot with either a liner or olive oil spray.

Diced onion.

Diced onion.

 

 

Add diced onion and Ro-tel. Allow to cook on high for 2 hours or until onion begins to clarify.

Spinach, Ro-tel, and cauliflower added. Isn't this colorful?

Spinach, Ro-tel, and cauliflower added. Isn’t this colorful?

 

 

 

 

Add spinach, cauliflower, and spices. Stir gently. Continue to cook for 2 hours on high.

 

 

All the spices for a good chili.

All the spices for a good chili.

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Add browned and drained ground beef. Drain beans and add. Stir gently.
Allow to cook for 1 hour on high. Taste test and adjust spices as needed.

Add cream cheese.

Add cream cheese.

 

Slice cream cheese and lay in on top of the current mixture to soften. Stir into pot. Add about a third of the grated cheese and stir.

 

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Add spaghetti squash and fold gently into the mixture.

 

Smoothed mixture will look something like this.

Smoothed mixture will look something like this.

 

Smooth out the top of the mixture. Add remaining shredded cheese and spread evenly over top. Allow this to continue to cook on medium for at least half an hour or until all the cheese is melted.

Cheese!

Cheese!

 

Finished cooking.

Finished cooking.

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¡Sabroso!

–Ann Cathey

Rendering Spaghetti Squash

A golden hued spaghetti squash cooks up into long strings of delightfully crisp and slightly sweet “spaghetti”. It is a wonderful ingredient for a wide assortment of dishes, though some people find it a tough cookie when it comes to cooking.

DSC_0005As the name implies, the stringy meat can be used in place of traditional spaghetti with sauce, substituted for pasta in casseroles, tossed into stir fry, or just eaten with a little butter and garlic.

DSC_0994

 

I’ve been shown a quick and fairly efficient way to render one of these thin skinned, tough to cut while raw, squashes.

 

 

 

Microwave Render

DSC_0995Remove the stem end of the squash first. This end should have a bump in the middle after it pops off.

 

 

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Cut the squash into two equal parts. This can be a bit of a chore as the meat is hard in the raw state. If the squash is larger than 2 pounds, you may need to quarter it.

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Once the squash is opened up, use a hard edged spoon to scrape the seeds and surrounding stringy material out.

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Reserve the seeds for regrowing if you are into that. The stringy material is a slightly darker color than the meat, usually, so you can scrape until you hit the lighter, harder flesh.

DSC_1000Give the meat a light spritz or rub of olive oil. You may cook the squash in a conventional oven, or in a microwave. The microwave takes a bit less time.

 

 

If you plan to roast your squash in the oven, lay the halves face down on a foil lined pan, or spray the pan with olive oil. This will prevent sticking. Set the oven to 350F and let the squash cook for a half an hour or until soft.

DSC_1001For microwaving, spray a baking dish with olive oil and lay in the squash face down. You may have to repeat the process with each separate piece of squash depending on the size. Cook on high in five minute increments until the rind of the squash is soft when pressed with a finger. Be careful – it will be hot.

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The squash may look a little wilted around the edges when you turn the halves over for inspection after cooking. Not to worry, this is normal.

 

Practice will teach you how long is long enough for your recipe and personal tastes when cooking most squash.

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Turn once again to your trust hard edged spoon to scrape the meat out of the skin. Set the stringy meat aside in a bowl to reserve it until you are ready to add it to your recipe. It should scrape easily away from the skin.

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Once empty, the skin should look something like this.

 

 

Now that you have the process, here’s a quick recipe to let you test your squash with.

Chicken with Spaghetti Squash Bake
Prep time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 med spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds)
1 lb chicken, diced
4-6 oz mushrooms, diced or sliced (Portobello is nice for this)
4 oz black olives, sliced
1 med bell pepper, diced, yellow or orange recommended
16 oz Alfredo sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
4-6 oz mozzarella, shredded
2 oz Provolone, sliced or shredded

Render spaghetti squash and microwave until done. Scoop meat out into a large bow and fold in Alfredo sauce. Cover and set aside.

While the squash is in the microwave, begin the chicken mixture. Add a little olive oil to a large skillet and saute chicken with spices. When the chicken is almost done, add mushrooms, bell pepper, and olives. Continue to cook until chicken is completely done.

Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with olive oil to prevent sticking. Turn out the chicken mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle about half of the mozzarella evenly over the top.

Turn the spaghetti squash and sauce mixture into the dish on top of the chicken and spread evenly. Top with the remaining mozzarella and Provolone cheeses.

Make sure the Provolone is on top as it is a dryer cheese and will melt more slowly than the mozzarella. It will also crust better if you prefer to cook until brown.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until heated through and all cheeses are melted.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

–Ann Cathey