I've got a secret. During the past few weeks, for many house guests, friends and family, I have been creating the World's. Best. Sandwiches. Ever. Now I feel badly that I've kept this from you for so long, and I'm here to make amends. I can't put my finger on what makes these sandwiches (panini, really) so remarkable. Could it be the caramelized onions? The home-cooked corned beef? The quick and easy cole slaw? The slices of Swiss cheese? Or could it be all of that forced together under the weight of the panini press, until the layers fuse and the cheese begins to ooze?
I don't know for sure, but what I do know is that, once you've tasted this sandwich, you'll never go back to a plain old corned-beef-on-rye. Most likely, it's the sweet caramelized onions that take this sandwich over the top. I make batches of them in my slow cooker, and keep them in the freezer. I call this a Reuben, even though there's no sauerkraut, and I call it a sandwich, even though technically it's a panini sandwich. Or a grilled corned beef sandwich. Maybe I should just say that it's Reubenesque.
Corned beef, Swiss cheese and caramelized onion Reuben sandwich
From the pantry, you'll need: bay leaf, black peppercorns, beer, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, celery seed, dried dill weed, kosher salt, fresh black pepper, sliced bread, caramelized onions (or 2 medium onions), olive oil.
Makes 6 sandwiches; serves 6. Can be multiplied.
3-lb flat cut corned beef brisket
12-oz bottle of your favorite beer (nonalcoholic is fine)
1 bay leaf
12 black peppercorns
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
12-oz bag store-bought cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)
Spicy deli mustard (I love Guilden's)
1 cup caramelized onions
3/4 lb sliced Swiss cheese
12 slices rye or sourdough bread
Remove the corned beef from its packaging, discard the little envelope of spices that come with it, rinse off the meat, and wipe dry with a paper towel.
Place in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Add the beer, bay leaf, and black peppercorns, then pour in enough water to almost cover the meat. Cook on LOW for 8-1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender. (This can be done days ahead of time.)
Cool the corned beef to room temperature if you want to use it right away, or cool entirely, wrap and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, make the cole slaw. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, celery seed, dill weed, salt and pepper. Taste, and adjust until you like it; the sauce should be a bit tart. Pour in the cole slaw mix, and stir to thoroughly coat the vegetables. Let the bowl sit on the countertop for 15-20 minutes; stir frequently. The mustard will begin to tenderize the cabbage, and the mixture will shrink in the bowl. After this has begun to happen, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
Thirty minutes before you're ready to assemble the sandwiches, remove the cooked caramelized onions from the refrigerator. Or, if you are caramelizing onion from scratch, add some sliced onion to a frying pan filmed with olive oil. Set the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the onions have softened and browned. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Slice the cooled (or chilled) corned beef into 1/4-inch thick slices.
Preheat your panini press. Or, if you're using a frying pan on the stove, preheat that pan.
Now, it's time to assemble the sandwiches.
On your countertop, set out the bread (in pairs). Spread one side of each slice with spicy mustard. Top each with a slice of Swiss cheese. Then pile onto one slice in each sandwich a few slices of corned beef, a bit of caramelized onion, and some cole slaw. Carefully close up the sandwich.
Use a pastry brush to paint the outside of each sandwich (both slices) with a bit of olive oil, which will help it brown nicely.
Place 2 sandwiches on the press (or in a frying pan, covered with a heavy plate or a second frying pan), and cook for 3-4 minutes, until you see the cheese begin to melt and come out the sides. Remove from the press, and let sit for 30 seconds; then, use a serrated knife to cut the sandwiches in half. Repeat until all sandwiches are made.
More hearty panini sandwiches:
Turkey, brie, roasted red pepper, and arugula panini with honey mustard sauce, from The Perfect Pantry
Roast beef panini with caramelized onions and horseradish cheese sauce, from The Perfect Pantry
Turkey, bacon and Swiss panini, from Panini Happy
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