Friday, March 18, 2011

Grandma's Rouladen Remix

A few years ago I spent some time going through my grandmother's recipe cards. I tested out the recipes that I remember from my childhood of vacations spent at my grandparent's house in Westmoreland, New York.  Grandma's recipe was simple and quite good but I knew I had to try my hand at my own version, while keeping hers in mind.

To start, I headed to my local butcher, Close to the Bone since they carry some of the best locally raised Canadian beef in the area and I knew that the key was starting with great beef.  Even though this dish doesn't require a special or expensive cut, it truly is all about the beef and that great beefy flavor and smell.  It's all about the smell of it cooking for me.  Whenever I smell rouladen cooking I'm sent back to my childhood, walking into Grandma and Grandpa's kitchen and having that rich smell permeate the whole house.  Whether you were hungry or not, the smell would get you and if by some small chance it didn't Grandma would force food on you anyway.  They always talk about Italian grandmothers and their need to feed, well it apparently also applies to German grandma's too!  The big pot that it braised in would be brought over to the table and we'd all sit down, of course fighting over who got the good spinning chairs, and Grandma would serve. We'd oblige by inhaling the beefy oniony goodness.

Maybe it's insane that I want to try to make what was already a pretty awesome dish better.  But I always have to try it out my way and I figure if I'm starting with a great base, adding a few ingredients can only make it better, right? Besides that, half of what made Grandma's so good was that she cooked with love.  She loved to feed us all, so even when I made her recipe it just didn't taste the same to me, it didn't live up to my memories.  Granted they were pretty tough ones too live up to.  So this is my attempt to live up to the memory, maybe make a few of my own and perfect a recipe that my future kids and grandkids will remember.

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Grandma's Rouladen Remix
A savoury and delish beef dish inspired by what my Grandmother used to make
  • 1 1/2 lbs beef round, cut into 8 1/2" slices
  • 4 strips of bacon - cut in half to make 8 pieces
  • 8 cornichons - cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 onion - halved and sliced
  • 8 tsps grainy mustard - I used Kozlik's Moustarda and it was perfect
  • 1-2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine, like Zinafandel - separated
  • 1 clove of garlic - smashed
  • 2 Tbsps unsalted butter - at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsps flour
  • 2 cups cooked spaetzle, mashed potatoes or egg noodles
  • salt & fresh cracked pepper
1. Pound out each beef slice just a bit to tenderize, being careful to not make holes since it has to hold the stuffing. Sprinkle each piece of beef with salt & pepper. Spread a tsp of mustard along one edge, top with a half slice of bacon, 2 pieces of cornichon and a few pieces of sliced onion. Carefully roll the beef around the filling and secure with toothpicks or two pieces of kitchen twine. Repeat with the rest of the slices of beef.2. In a large deep skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Brown the rolls on each side in the heated pan, doing it in batches to avoid crowding. Reserve on a platter.3. Once each roll is browned, pour 1/4 cup of red wine into the skillet to deglaze the pan. Using a wooden spoon scrape all of the tasty brown bits off the bottom of the pan then add in the remaining wine and beef stock.4. Bring the wine and beef stock to boil over medium heat, then lower the heat to low, add in the beef rolls and the crushed clove of garlic. Cover the pan, leaving the top slightly askew and simmer on low for an hour.5. Remove the cooked beef rolls to a plate and reserve. In a small bowl mix the flour and butter to make a paste. Raise the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer. Whisk in the flour and butter paste until disolved, let sauce simmer and thicken, just a few minutes. 6. Serve the rouladen over spaetzle* and topped in gravy.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4

As wonderful as the memories are of my grandmother's rouladen, this one is packed with so much flavor from the beef rolls' stuffing to the beef stock and rich wine.  I love the history of recipes and how each person who tries a recipe will do something to make them their own.  Regardless of how I made my own tweaks, rouladen will always remind me of my grandmother and suppers in her sun-filled kitchen. I'm just hoping she's not turning in her grave at my fancier version of her signature dish.  One thing I do know is that I will absolutely be keeping both recipes in my collection.

Aside from really wanting to make this dish, Canadian Beef gave me the push to do so now since they are generously offering to send FIVE food bloggers to Eat Write Retreat this May (which I'm DYING to go to).  This is my entry, a new favorite recipe using delicious and local Canadian Beef.  I think with the amount of Canadian Beef we go through in a year (the Boy is a hardcore Meatatarian) it should make my chances better, don't you?

* I finally bought a large-holed colander and used it to make the spaetzle in this picture, I absolutely recommend this method for far lighter spaetzle than in the original post.


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