The Chicken Liver and Pastrami Sandwich at Kenny and Ziggy's
The problem with the Reuben at Kenny and Ziggy's is that it has its own gravitational pull. Not only is the sandwich large enough to encourage small moons into orbit, it's also such an amazing example of its genre that it makes deviation difficult. As soon as I slide into one of those red booths, I immediately start thinking Reuben. I'm actually a little afraid of the thrall in which that sandwich holds me.
That's where schmaltz comes in. I have a deep affection for that rich essence of chicken, and encourage its liberal application in cooking. On my last visit to K&Z's, fighting that old familiar tug toward the Reuben, I lit on the "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Schmaltz!" Its promise of fatty chopped chicken livers married with smoky pastrami was just the jolt I needed to break the Reuben's spell. I ordered it before I could change my mind, resting somewhat secure in the knowledge that my wife had ordered the Reuben. It's good to have a contingency plan.
When the sandwich arrived, it was actually kind of intimidating. My rational brain told me that the open-faced Reuben was just as big, but there's something about a triple-decker sandwich, its sheer verticality seeming to question the physics of actual consumption, that makes you doubt the sanity of its creator.
Throwing caution to the wind, I grasped the behemoth firmly, squeezing gently in order to compress the sandwich down to something closer to the diameter of my mouth. Immediately, schmaltzy liver oozed out of the sandwich on every side. I'm sure it was a little unpleasant to watch, but it was delicious to eat.
The first bite was mostly chopped liver, as I was trying to prevent it from dripping off the sandwich, waffle cone-style. It was vaguely sweet and deeply savory, with that wonderful not-quite-smooth texture I prefer in chopped liver. Some places basically puree their liver, and that just makes me sad. I also love the fact that it was mostly liver, with little filler there to cover up the funk, which was out in force. It was a heady first bite, a jolt to the senses.
Bite two sent the sandwich over the top, as the smoky tang of pastrami both contributed to and cut through the richness of the liver. The cumulative effect was extremely rich, but with elevating hints of spice that kept it from being leaden. It was a wonderful balancing act that teetered tantalizingly on the verge of too much.
I devoured the sandwich without so much as one sidelong glance at my wife's Reuben, washed down with a palate-cleansing IPA from Brooklyn Brewery. I don't know that this one has deposed the King of Sandwiches, but it's certainly standing in line for the throne. Be forewarned, though, it's a lot of sandwich in more ways than one. By the time I got home, I felt very much like I needed a nap, or at least some Underberg.