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Broccoli rabe Reuben sandwich with egg.

Tara O'Brady/The Globe and Mail

I do not know to whom credit is owed for the innovation of a Reuben sandwich made with broccoli.

New York’s Court Street Grocers comes to mind, as does cookbook author Hetty McKinnon. I extend my gratitude to both, even as I am unfaithful to their examples and use broccoli rabe instead.

A broccoli Reuben, rabe or otherwise, is of course not a doppelgänger for the standard Reuben – corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese, stacked between slices of rye bread and grilled. Still, the name hints at the contents found here.

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I have an affection for eggs and greens (think eggs Florentine), so the inclusion of a folded omelette made perfect sense to me. I appreciate the added protein and bulk, making the sandwich one welcomed any time of day. For September, it becomes a sandwich for eating on the go, to stash in lunchboxes or, since prep is done in advance, a quickly fixed bite for a break at home.

You’ll want to blanch the broccoli rabe the night before. Trim any woody ends, then cut stalks to approximate bun-length. Slice any thicker bunches lengthwise up the stalk and through the tops. Leave skinny ones whole. Then either blanch in boiling water until barely tender, or steam in the microwave. Plunge into ice water to set the colour and crunch. Drain and save for prep day, when they will get a sear in a hot pan before the eggs are cooked.

While you’re in the kitchen, pull together the Russian dressing. Start with store-bought mayonnaise so the sauce can be held for a few days in the fridge if needed, and also as added protection if packing the sandwich for work or school.

In another departure from tradition, chop the sauerkraut finely and fold it into that sauce, which keeps the sauerkraut from making the sandwich soggy, and mitigates some of the slipperiness. For those with kimchi in their fridge, that works just as well, in which case gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) swapped for the paprika would be a strong move. (Again, these aren’t analogues for the originals, but worthy of mention.)

All the parts work together. The roll, toasted only on one side, is soft but sturdy. Next up, the dressing, studded with crunchy cabbage, rich and zippy, has a lip-warming heat. Onto that, a blanket of cheese. Then the eggs, still soft and tender. A tangle of broccoli rabe, charred, deeply vegetal and slightly bitter, gets another layer of cheese. The top bun completes the stack. It is a messy, magnificent, balanced collaboration. Maybe it’s a Reuben, maybe it’s not. Definitions blur as napkins are dirtied. Whatever it’s called, it is a triumph.

Broccoli rabe Reuben with egg

Makes 2, with enough dressing for 4

For Russian dressing

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  • ½ cup store-bought mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sauerkraut or napa cabbage kimchi, drained well and minced (about ¼ cup once cut)
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne-based hot sauce
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce, optional (omit for vegetarians)
  • ⅛ teaspoon paprika, hot or sweet
  • Medium-grain kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed

For assembly

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe or broccolini, blanched and chilled
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Medium grained kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • A good pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • Butter for the buns if desired, plus 1 tablespoon for the eggs
  • 2 soft rolls of choice; challah, brioche, potato or similar, split
  • 2 to 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 ounces firm melting cheese (Swiss, Gruyère, Comté or similar), thinly sliced, or 4 deli slices

Russian dressing

Start with the dressing. In a 2-cup jar or similar, stir together all the ingredients, except kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste, then season. Cover and refrigerate for up to four days.

To make the sandwiches, start with the broccoli rabe. Preheat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Scatter the broccoli rabe across the dry pan and leave to sear, undisturbed for 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and sear the second side until charred in places, warmed through and tender, 1 to 2 minutes more. Move the broccoli rabe on the board and either chop into bite-sized pieces or carefully whack with the back of a knife to tenderize but leave whole. Transfer to a plate, dress lightly with olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and chili flakes. Wipe out the pan and place on medium heat.

Toast the cut sides of the buns, buttered if desired, until golden brown, 2 minutes. Arrange on a large cutting board and spread the bottom halves with a generous tablespoon of the Russian dressing. Lay one-quarter of the cheese on top of each. Wipe out the pan again if needed.

Melt half the butter in the pan on medium heat. Season the eggs and add to pan. Wait a moment, then, using a heatproof silicone spatula, lift the edges and tilt the pan to allow raw egg to flow underneath. Continue until mostly opaque but soft on the surface, 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the number of eggs used. Fold the egg into a tube; either roll, omelette-style, or fold like a letter, bottom edge up, then top edge down to cover. Turn the short sides in, if desired. Flip onto cutting board. Cut omelette in two, place a half on each of the buns. Divide broccoli rabe between them, and top with the remaining cheese. Spread the top buns with the last of the Russian dressing and close the sandwich. Eat immediately.

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For a later lunch, serve hot or cold. If intended cold, assemble as directed. Let cool, wrap in parchment, then place in an appropriate sealed container with a cold pack tucked alongside. For hot, assemble the sandwich without the dressing. Wrap in parchment paper and place in a preheated thermos. Spoon dressing into a small container and transport separately with a cold pack. Add the dressing right before eating.

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