You don’t know Reuben (How to make a panini without a press)

This post is a combo post. Part review of a reuben sandwich, part tips and technique on how to make a panini even if you don’t have a panini press. I had high hopes of making corned beef and cabbage for St. Paddy’s Day (note: a friend of mine alerted me that I’ve called this day by the wrong nickname for years! Apparently it’s not Pattie’s or Patty’s. It’s Paddy’s. Lesson learned.), but I woke up with a cold. Again. So instead of figuring out corned beef and cabbage and making – and eating it! – for the first time, I spent St. Paddy’s day catching snippets of naps in between Little K’s meal schedule. By dinner, we were looking to partake a little in the Irish festivities and fill our empty bellies fast. So, we made reuben paninis. One problem though… I don’t have a panini press. I did a quick hunt to see if I could find recommendations on how to get around this little hitch, and found lots of tips.

Don’t worry if you can’t watch the video though, here’s the gist:

  1. Use a smaller frying pan stacked on top of the sandwiches as they fry.
  2. Press it down with your own weight or with a few different cans from your pantry.

It worked great and the reubens were super yummy.

Reuben Panini

Overall: five-star

If you haven’t had a reuben before – or heaven forbid, you don’t even know what a reuben is! – put that on your to-do list. They are amazing – especially with plenty of thousand island and swiss cheese! Oh, and the cheater panini press worked like a charm.  (Recipe here, from BringingUpBoys on Tasty Kitchen.)

Ease to Prepare: four-star

You certainly could make these as regular grilled sandwiches, but it’s so tasty as a panini. The bread gets really crispy and all the flavors blend together really well. It’s a teeny bit more involved since you have to prepare the sandwiches (which includes a layer of thousand island dressing, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and corned beef) and then panini-fy them. (#itsaword) If you have a panini press, I guess it’s no sweat. But if you don’t, the prep is still pretty easy – just a little clumsy.

Instructions: five-star

The sandwich isn’t all that involved, so the recipe detail works great. As far as the faux panini press – the video is super. Very thorough, plus it gives you a couple of tips like using a foil wrapped brick instead of a pan, or using a griddle pan to cook with. I’ll also add that I seen a lot of websites recommend putting some heavy cans in the skillet you’re using as a press. That would work great – though I just used a cast iron skillet and pushed down on it as it cooked. It worked great, but it was a little awkward to manage a big heavy skillet while watching the sandwiches underneath and flipping them.

It’s a skillet sandwich. With a sandwich as the filling. Whoa. I just blew my mind.

Food: four-star

Not as great as a good restaurant panini, but it was sure close. We used grated Swiss cheese instead of sliced, and I swear that helps it melt and is much gooier. We didn’t have the best quality corned beef (the store was out. That’s what happens when you try to buy corned beef at 5pm on St. Patrick’s Day) and the sauerkraut was a little too crunchy for my liking, but that all depends on your preferences and what brand/quality you buy. Whatever the type of kraut you use, make sure you squeeze the dickens out of it! You don’t want it all juicy and watery or you’ll end up with a soggy sandwich.

Clean up: four-star

Sandwiches should have an easy clean up, right? Well this was a little less than perfect for us, only because we had two skillets to clean. An easy wipe down for both though.

Cost: one dollar

Ours was a deal, but you certainly could spend more if you buy really nice meat, bread, or dressing. We used the cheapest canned kraut (and I could tell), marbled rye from the bakery, and some cheap pre-packaged meat. It wasn’t the best reuben I’ve ever had, but not the worst either. Next time I’ll splurge and get the nice quality kraut and meat though.

What did you end up making for St. Patrick’s Day? Who had a Guinness? I was craving a Grasshopper Malt something fierce, but because I live in crazytown I couldn’t buy Creme de Menthe on a Sunday. (boo.)


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