This is basically a reuben sandwich, but with Swiss cheese on both slices of bread, so that when you toast it, the cheese melts, technically qualifying as a “grilled cheese sandwich.” It’s not the kind of reuben you can get in a good diner or sports bar, but when you’re craving one at midnight in your house, it’s just about doable.

For this sandwich, you will want some pre-prepared ingredients; namely, thousand island dressing (a lot of people put it on the side, but I spread it on the bread, sometimes along with extra mayonnaise or with some mild yellow or mild deli mustard), and some of your favorite coleslaw, kimchi, sauer kraut, or even just any fried/cooked cabbage you happen to have left over from Kielbasa and Pierogi Night (one of my favorite nights in the primarily-Eastern-European-descended house I grew up in). Another reason I like sandwiches, especially like this, is that you can put them together from pre-prepared food; good for a low-spoons night.

Thousand-island dressing can probably be purchased along with other dressings a la ranch, bleu cheese, and vinaigrettes, but I like making my own; it’s really easy. At its core, it’s just mayonnaise with ketchup and pickle relish, mixed in proportion to your own individual tastes. However, you can add additional touches, such as in this recipe I really like, although it is a bit labor-intensive. What I like to do is a thousand-island dressing with chipotle mayonnaise, using this chipotle spice mix, or my closest approximation of it. I literally have a little plastic bag of this pre-mixed in my pantry and labeled. When you have things prepared ahead of time, you can mix them or spread them when the time comes and then just leave them alone to cook. Similarly, if you want to make your own coleslaw, there are plenty of recipes out there, although I haven’t made my own yet.

I use traditional marble rye or “Jewish rye” (literally what our supermarket called it), and the aforementioned Swiss cheese (although you could maybe also try gruyere or a similarly mild but hard-ish cheese if you want to experiment). Where I don’t go traditional is meat, although it’s out of necessity and convenience, not (initially) preference. If you don’t have leftover corned beef from St. Patrick’s Day dinner (the other roughly 25% of my family’s ancestry), you probably don’t have corned beef in your house, let alone pre-cooked and ready for a sandwich. I usually use sliced cold-cut roast beef or turkey, although I’m sure you could also use pastrami, as some people do with their actual reubens.

Beyond that, just assemble the sandwich and cook as a grilled cheese – I like to spray and pre-heat the pan on low, then turn it when I actually put the sandwich in. I like grilled cheese to be toasted and even with a little char, but not burnt, and I find the heat is more controllable that way, especially if I don’t want to hover over the pan (I love my stove clock alarm). I usually cook about 5 minutes on one side, then flip it and cook for another 4 minutes, before flipping one more time to the original side to sear it with the spatula before taking the sandwich out. You can also use the spatula to smush the sandwich down and make sure it’s getting as melted as possible while it cooks.

This is the grilled cheese I ate tonight (with my Mom’s leftover homemade coleslaw, my chipotle thousand island dressing, and turkey; we had no roast beef), after a long and shitty day. I’m now signing off to eat some mango sorbet straight from the container while I switch between “Cooks vs. Cons” on Food Network and hatewatching “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997). But please let me know if you know a different or better variant on this recipe that I can try, or your own ways of cooking grilled cheese to your desired level of toastiness. If people comment with recipes, especially if they then donate to my Paypal, I can maybe do a post just about trying that.


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