Do you remember, way back in school, when you learned the phrase, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”?

Those Greek philosophers always had the coolest quotes, didn’t they? And then, we made stone statues of them, and stuck them in places we all like to visit, so we can stand in front of them and get our pictures taken. Good times.

But Aristotle was onto some shit. I mean, I’m sure the phrase doesn’t work for everything, but think about it for a second. Okay, a minute.

A building: sure, all the individual pieces are significant in the structural integrity of the building, but generally they all function together to create one whole unit that doesn’t topple over. A body: lots of organs, bones, muscles that truthfully aren’t too entirely useful on their own, but together, usually something pretty neat happens.

Food: duh, you can have dozens of individual components that separately may be a little lackluster, but if you know what you’re doing, they are magical when you put them together. A reuben sandwich could possibly be the best way to prove this.

Take corned beef. Sorta weird if you just picked up a slice and ate it for lunch. And sauerkraut – that mess is nasty by itself. I mean, you wouldn’t get to a restaurant and say, “I’d Iike a nice bowl of sauerkraut. That’s all.” Would you? Okay, I’m sure someone would. And cheese? Ok, totally not a good example, because I could probably eat a block of cheese. But you see what I mean, right?

I don’t really like corned beef. And I definitely don’t prefer sauerkraut. Swiss cheese isn’t my favorite either. And that orange colored Thousand Island dressing that is really similar to “secret sauce”? Probably only something I’d consider licking off my arm if it dripped off of my Big Mac. Or I suppose, in this context, my Reuben.

Because, even though these ingredients separately aren’t much to write home about, they are killer when you slap them all between a piece of rye bread, toss said concoction into a buttered skillet, and cook until warm and melty. And what’s maybe the best part? It’s all done in a matter of minutes, a true “whole” that is waaaaaay better than the “parts”.

Reuben Sandwiches
adapted from Cooking Light, May 2012; makes 4 sandwiches

time commitment: under 30 minutes

printable version

1/4 c canola mayonnaise
1 T chili sauce
2 t finely minced dill pickle
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t grated onion

8 slices rye bread
3 oz Swiss cheese, shaved (about 3/4 cup)
4 oz lower-sodium corned beef, thinly sliced (such as Boar’s Head corned beef, top round, cap-off)
1 c organic sauerkraut, drained well
2 T butter

To prepare dressing, combine the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well.

To prepare sandwiches, arrange 1/4 of cheese on bottom slice, then 1/4 of beef, then 1/4 of sauerkraut. Slather 1/4 of dressing on top slice of bread and top sandwich.

Heat a cast iron skillet or saute pan over medium-hi heat, and add butter until melted. Place sandwich in pan (1 or 2 at a time, depending on size) and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Use a spatula to flatten the sandwich some for even cooking. Serve immediately.

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