Jacob’s Kitchen: Classic Reuben on Rye (Project Food Blog – Challenge 5)

This post is my fifth entry for Project Food Blog, foodbuzz.com’s quest to find the next food blog star. (Click here to see my contestant profile.) In this round we were challenged to put our own spin on pizza. Voting begins Monday, October 18, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me in the first four rounds, I appreciate all of your support more than I can say!

Is there any food in the world more ubiquitous or more universally loved than pizza? I doubt it. No matter where you go around the globe you’re likely to find some local pizza specialty ranging from the more traditional to exotic flavors that you might never have thought to combine. And while we each certainly have our own preferences, in my world the perfect pizza has a thick crust that is crisp on the outside, and tender and chewy on the inside. It has just the right amount of toppings, all of which harmonize together, with no one ingredient overpowering the others. I think the reason that we all love pizza so much is because it’s so simple and casual. A few ingredients, thoughtfully prepared, flash baked, and enjoyed together with our hands; delicious, informal, and satisfying, pizza is the bread that we all break together.

This week, challenged to give you my own spin on pizza, I pondered the infinite possibilities. I thought of the incredibly delicious Philly cheese-steak pizza at the California Pizza Kitchen, and wondered how I might also reinvent a classic combination. Suddenly the idea came to me of recreating a Reuben, one of my all time favorite sandwiches, into pizza form. Yes! What a truly inspired concept. I could just imagine the great flavors, and the no doubt prestigious awards that would follow. “This invention will likely change the course of history,” I told myself, “I am the smartest human being ever to live!” Two minutes and a quick internet search later, I discovered that I was, in fact, no where near the first person to stumble upon this combination. But that’s just how it goes most of the time. It’s difficult to reinvent the wheel in the kitchen these days with such amazing foodies out there in the world.

Unwavering in my conviction, however, I scoured the recipes thinking of a way to make this dish my own. Most of what has been done with Reuben pizzas to date has consisted of a standard pizza crust, thousand island salad dressing, mounds of sauerkraut and corned beef, a mix of Swiss and mozzarella cheeses, and a sprinkling of caraway seeds. And while that all sounds perfectly delicious, most of what I found seemed more like an open faced sandwich than a pizza. I wondered how I might elevate these ingredients to create something even more special.

To start, I decided I would ditch the standard pizza dough altogether and make my own pumpernickel rye crust instead. And in lieu of using salad dressing as my sauce, I thought I could create a thick thousand island inspired béchamel. Building from there, why not throw in a little more flavor with the addition of caramelized onions, which I could sauté with the sauerkraut, laying a flavor packed foundation for the entire pizza. And what can I say? It was a tremendous success.

It really does have all of the great flavors of the classic Reuben sandwich, while still being a pizza. The flavors hit you in waves: first the tangy sauerkraut and corned beef, then the earthy crust, caraway, onions, cheese and sauce. It all comes together beautifully to create a really round, familiar flavor that we all know and love. The crust bakes up perfectly, with just the right consistency, and the thick sauce and sautéed sauerkraut prevent it from being too moist.

To make the Reuben pizzas, begin by preparing the ingredients (all of which can be made up to two days in advance and assembled right before baking):

The Dough – In the bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or, alternatively, you can choose to mix the dough by hand), combine the dry ingredients (four cups of white bread flour, a fourth of a cup of cocoa powder, two tablespoons of granulated sugar, four teaspoons of salt, two teaspoons of onion powder, and two tablespoons of active dry yeast) and the liquid ingredients (two cups plus two tablespoons of prepared coffee, six tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and six tablespoons of unsulfured molasses, warmed together for ninety seconds in the microwave) and beat for four minutes on medium speed. Gradually add two and two thirds cups of dark rye flour and enough bread flour (up to one and one third cups) to form a stiff dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead for seven minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add two heaping tablespoons of caraway seeds and mix until evenly incorporated. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and allow it to rise in a warm place for one hour or until it has doubled in volume. (This recipe yields enough to make four large, thick crusted individual pizzas.)

The Sauce – To make the sauce, melt eight ounces of butter in the bottom of a saucepan and whisk in one half of a cup of all purpose flour, cooking this mixture for two minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Slowly whisk in three cups of whole milk, and simmer until the mixture is thick. Off of the heat, add one third of a cup of Parmesan cheese, a half a teaspoon of granulated garlic, a half of a cup of ketchup, a half of a cup of sweet pickle relish, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of chipotle flavored Tabasco, three tablespoons of coarse grain Dijon mustard, and a half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

The Onions/Sauerkraut – In the bottom of a large saucepan add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Over medium low heat, slowly cook three sliced, large yellow onions, a half a teaspoon of salt, and a half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper for approximately thirty minutes, or until the onions begin to turn a deep golden brown. Add fifteen ounces of sauerkraut with its liquid, and continue cooking until the mixture is dry, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan along the way.

The Meat – Purchase one pound of thinly sliced corned beef at your favorite local deli counter, and cut it into long strips.

The Cheese – Grate one pound of good quality Swiss cheese, and have two tablespoons of caraway seeds at the ready.

To assemble the pizzas, start by heating a pizza stone in a 500° oven. (Don’t have a pizza stone? Never fear. Turn a thick, stainless steel baking sheet upside down, and place it on the middle rack of your oven, and allow it to heat for fifteen minutes.) Divide the risen dough into fourths, and roll out each into approximately nine inch rounds (the dough should be thinner in the middle and thicker along the outside edge). Place the rounds on a rimless baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread the dough with a generous amount of the sauce (three or four tablespoons), and a thin layer of the caramelized onion/sauerkraut mixture. Top that with a layer of corned beef, a fourth of the shredded Swiss cheese, and a sprinkling of caraway seeds. Brush the outside crust with extra virgin olive oil, and transfer the dough onto your preheated pizza stone (or baking sheet) and bake for approximately twelve minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, firm to the touch, and the cheese is melted. Serve it with a sprinkle of freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, a frosty pint of your favorite beer, and dinner is served.

The rich flavors, brown bread and beer really say autumn to me.  And in a continuation of those flavors, inspired by all of the perfectly ripe fresh local apples filling up the farm stands, I decided I would drive home the tastes of fall by creating little apple cheddar dessert pizzas. But after making the Reuben from scratch, I wanted to give myself a break and so I took a little help from the store.

To make the apple cheddar pizzas, roll out store bought pizza dough to one fourth of an inch of thickness. Cut out four six inch rounds (I use a sharp knife and a saucer as my template) and line them up on a corn meal sprinkled, parchment lined baking sheet. Dust each round of dough with approximately a teaspoon of granulated sugar. Spread a tablespoon of good quality apple butter on the top of each, leaving a half an inch border around the edge. Top that with thinly sliced apples (which have been par cooked for about one minute in boiling apple cider and tossed with freshly squeezed lemon juice). Brush the apple slices with real maple syrup (preferably grade A dark amber), and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Add a handful of grated sharp white cheddar cheese to each, along with a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves. Bake at 500° for ten minutes or until the crusts are golden and the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

These apple cheddar pizzas strike  just the right balance between sweet and savory. The sweet maple syrup, spicy apple butter, crunchy pecans, tangy apples, grassy thyme, and salty cheese all compliment one another beautifully; and the crispy thin crust provides the perfect platform, and a terrific contrast of textures. They are simple, rustic, easy to prepare, and make for the perfect, delicious end to any autumn meal.

I am reminded at times like these that food doesn’t have to be groundbreaking in order to be delicious. When I am looking at recipes I often find that I am not searching for a dish to prepare as much as I am looking for inspiration for a dish that I’m making. Recipes are like road maps. You can follow them, and they will certainly get you to where you need to go, but it’s when you finally put them down that the real fun of the adventure begins.  By re-imagining ingredients, mixing and matching flavors, juggling spices, and tasting along the way, you can create your own fantastic new spin on any recipe.  Here in my kitchen, this is how I spell delicious. In your kitchen, it’s entirely up to you!

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64 Comments

Filed under Breads, Desserts, Jams/Spreads/Sauces, Meat, Project Food Blog

64 responses to “Jacob’s Kitchen: Classic Reuben on Rye (Project Food Blog – Challenge 5)

  1. Very cool composite picture. Good luck this round!

  2. One of my all-time favorite sandwiches is a Rueben.
    To make this into a pizza is simply devine! You never cease to amaze me! Will try recipe and will definitely cast you a vote tomorrow!

  3. Excellent post. You’ll get my vote.

  4. Super cleaver idea with the rueben pizza – nicely done! Also the apple cheddar looks very sweet and savory. Good luck!!

  5. Ha! Ha! Jacob, I am cracking up! Here I thought I was so unique in my combo. Alas, great minds think alike, dahhling!

    Your crust looks fabulous! I see you found caraway seeds. I was so frustrated not to find them so I used anise. It still tasted great.

    Love the caramelized onions mixed in, awesome idea!

    Of course you have my vote too. I sincerely hope we both make it on to round 6. I mean, with Reuben pizzas, how could we not? big hugs!

  6. What a clever take on pizza. Good luck with the upcoming vote.

  7. Best of luck Jacob…anyone who can turn a sandwich into a fab pizza AND make killer caramel? You’re my kind of foodie, brother!

  8. You did a great job with this. Good luck!!

  9. Great Autumn recipes and pictures. Your Reuben pizza looks so good. Good Luck in the competition.

  10. yum, both look fabulous! great take on pizza – they look delicious! good luck!

  11. I am a Reuben fanatic and love what you have done to pizza! The apple cheddar treats for a grand finish is wonderful, too.

  12. I love this. I’ve seen many versions of the reuben pizza online but I really love yours the best! Best wishes my friend!

  13. gingerbreadcake

    Jacob you are a genius! The reuben pizza looks soooo good, I’m drooling. I absolutely love how you made a pumpernickel rye crust instead of the typical pizza crust.
    And then the apple cheddars pizzas?! Wow, you just keep amazing me.
    You definitely have my vote! I seriously can’t get over how incredible you are in the kitchen and how beautiful all of your photos are. You’re amazing!! :)

  14. Love the reuben AND the composite pictures!
    Deliciousness all around!

  15. tcmaryf

    Lov the rye crust. What an individual and unique take on this. Good luck in contest, your recipe is worth it.

  16. Ok your reuben pizza is great, but I LOVE your apple cheddar pizza! I bet it tastes amazing, and makes me feel like fall. Good luck with PFB! :)

  17. Apples and cheddar??? Nothing better!! And you made it into a pizza instead of a pie. Genius!!

  18. woman&warrior

    Wow, I’m impressed. Your photographs are stunning and simply beautiful. The concept for both the reuben and the dessert pizza are brilliant.

    Bravo!

  19. This is gorgeous, as always. It looks like a high end magazine spread and it’s so perfect for the season. Well done!

  20. oh yum! i love both of these pizza’s! your photography score is beautiful! well done, you’ve definitely got my vote.
    Leila@MyBarbarianTable

  21. Definitely intrigued by your apple cheddar pizza !!! Good luck

  22. Forget the reuben. I want that apple cheddar pizza. AWESOME!

  23. sherry thrasher

    I kept saying “clever” and then you used bechamel and I was blown away. Going to vote right now! Best of luck to you!

  24. You did it again. And again, you have my vote. Will you be in San Fran.

    • Hi Norma,

      Thanks! =) Unfortunately, though I would LOVE to be in SF for the conference, I am fully booked with work that week. =( But the next time it is there I will definitely be going!

      Thanks for stopping by, and for voting! =)

  25. Thanks everyone for all of your wonderful supportive comments! The pizzas turned out really well. I was very happy with them. =)

    Go team Jacob!!! =)

  26. Jacob! Love the spliced pictures and love the ruben pizza! Bravo buddy!

  27. Wow! I heard first hand that this pizza is AMAZING! I’m so very jealous. Reuben’s are hands down my favorite sandwich and this just looks and sounds amazing.

    And apple butter on a pizza! Yum!!!

  28. It’s the bechemel that proves you know what the heck you are doing! I am quite impressed by this and will certainly vote! GREG

  29. Not even sure if I commented already, but I’ll do it again if I did b/c this is deserving at least a few more visits to your post. I love the photos–just divine and the reuben..gah! You are killing me! Voted for you, of course!

  30. Oh my. This looks and sounds incredible! Good luck on this challenge!!!

  31. I voted for you! Love your idea of the pumpernickel rye dough – I’ve made a reuben pizza before, and I brushed the crust with jalapeno mustard to kick it up a notch – so good!

    http://mybizzykitchen.com/2010/01/16/reuben-pizza-success/

  32. I’ll vote for you, if you send me some of this yummy looking pizza! JK, I don’t know what I like better the dessert one of the rueben one, I may have to try both! Good Luck to you!
    -Gina-

  33. Oh my lands. Aside from the fact that I’m married and love my husband very much, will you please run away with me (bring the pizza).

  34. foododelmundo

    Gosh, those look delicious! Reuben is a favorite of mine, and as a pizza, well, that just hit the top of my charts. Thanks for your vote…you’ve got one coming right back at you. -Katy

  35. Your crust concoction has me on the floor – nicely done my friend. Best of luck!

  36. clever! I love food that speaks of other food :)
    got my vote!

  37. Amy

    I LOVE ruben sandwiches, and this looks exceptionally delicious! Wonderful photos as well, voted!

  38. Nice entry…and good call on the caraway seeds.

  39. Looks absolutely delicious. The pictures are fantastic as well.

  40. You just combined two of my favorite things.. Reubens and pizza.. I think I’m in love. I just sent this recipe to my boyfriend.. we have to make this! ps. voted :)

  41. Your reuben pizzas look excellent! And so do the cheddar apple ones. Delicious ideas. Best of luck!

  42. Hi Jacob! I haven’t had a good Reuben in years, so you can imagine how I’m drooling over the idea of a Reuben Pizza! On top of that, you produced a stunner of an apple cheddar pizza – that would be a most perfect meal! Hoping we both continue to round 6!!!

  43. It looks amazing!! You have a vote from me! For my entry, I made pizza for all the wrong times of day: some Deep Dish Pizza Cupfakes and Pizzas Benedict :) Come see if you’d like!

  44. Delicious! I love a good Reuben and this looks AMAZING!! Here’s to us creative types in round 6!

  45. It’s looks so delicious and sinful ^.^ that I was literally {drooling} in front of my PC while reading your post. Your pizza ‘Classic Reuben on Rye’ have certainly won my heart and tummy {a vote from me} ;). Can’t wait to try out your recipe. All the best!

  46. I have voted for you. Good luck! This recipe will go into my recipe box for sure!

  47. Bulls Eye! I love Reubens. I voted for you. Good luck!

  48. Even though, I had never seen or eaten a reuben pizza in my life (believe me!) I loved how you changed the original recipe !! Good job chef!!
    Voted!

  49. Jacob, as always, I am blown away by your incredible photography and creative genius. I’m not even just saying that to look all cool and stuff. I genuinely mean it.

    I LOVE that photo of the pizza building process for the Reuben, and the apple one? Gah. Drooling. See, I like Reubens. I like apples. I don’t like pizza. But you could feed me both of your pizza versions any day, m’dear ;)

    Good luck! I’m rooting for you, of course! I gots you covered, yo… :D

    Jax x

  50. You still got it going in my book. Another vote for you! – S

  51. What an incredibly beautiful take on pizza…you are so talented ;)
    Voting for you, of course, and hope to see you in round 6!

  52. I’m in love with your vertically split photo of the pizzas and their toppings – It’s freaking perfect.

  53. That crust looks like heaven for any pizza crust lovers out there. Really great job interpreting this challenge!

  54. Incredible-your Reuben caught my eye immediately-you have my vote..good luck !

  55. Rueben pizza, what a fantastic idea! I love your pictures and the apple pizza looks delicious too. Great job and you’ve got my vote! Good luck!

  56. I love your creativity! The reuben pizza sounds so good and looks delicious! Great job putting your own spin on things! Thanks for the tip on how to use a stainless steel baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone! Your posts are always chock-full of information! And I love the gorgeous photo collage of all the pizza toppings! It’s just genius to put all the photos together like that! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that on anyone else’s blog before!

    Oh, and I love how you didn’t stop there, and made dessert pizzas as well! I love apples with cheddar cheese, so I know I would love those pizzas! Throw in all the other flavors, and man, do they sound amazing!

  57. Oh, and I just voted for you! Best of luck! You’re doing great!

  58. Congrats for being in the race! I will vote for you again the next round:D

  59. i like the first pizza it has many layers, i want to have a big bite of this pizza.

  60. wow both pizzas look absolutely amazing! yum!

  61. I! I just dieeed in your blog, tonight!! It must have been somethin’ you cooked~

    But seriously. This is amazing. Bookmarked forever. I will certainly have dreams about this overnight and be forced to go shopping upon waking and make this for breakfast. I know, right?

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