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.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
1 raw pizza crust or preferred dough
2 lbs corned beef sliced at 0.5
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Ann Cathey