I’ve been thinking about a recipe or two to post here, but I’ve already covered several favorites over the years (do a Google search starting with the phrase site:blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline and then the word recipe; that’ll call them up). They get used frequently around Pipeline HQ here – the gingersnap cookies were made just before Christmas, for one. We’ve made the chicken soup recipe recently, and if everyone’s sufficiently recovered from the stomach flu that’s been going through the place (don’t ask), then I’ll be making the pot pie recipe for dinner tonight. The joojeh kebab recipe that I put up last year is pretty much the “standard chicken” around here as well.
Here’s one, though, that I’ve made more infrequently, but break out once in a while. My father used to make it as well – it’s a German dish, rindsrouladen (beef rolls), and it’s a good cold-weather dish. When I ordered it in Germany, while living there on my post-doc, I was pleased to inform my father that his recipe was indistinguishable from what I got there. But this is an old home-cooking sort of dish, and a lot of these (in any cuisine) are capable of starting arguments based on the indisputable fact that not everyone has the same grandmother. Just get a bunch of Swedes started on the proper way to make köttbullar, known to the rest of us as Swedish meatballs, and you’ll see this in action within minutes. There are no doubt other ways to make these rouladen, but this recipe is at least somewhere near the median:
The recipe calls for mustard, bacon, onion (chopped fine), and whole or spear pickles, but what it mostly calls for are pieces of beef, sliced medium-thin. Around a centimeter (or between a quarter to a half inch) should be good. Top round is a reasonable cut to do this with, but there are certainly others that will work, and since this recipe will involve cooking for a while in sauce, relatively cheap cuts of meat should work out. A cut, that’s thin but exclusively with the grain, like flank steak or skirt steak, might come out too chewy (and besides, skirt steak is one of the greatest cuts of meat to grill or broil as is, anyway), but I do see people making beef-roll type dishes with flank steak all the time, so there is that. If you live in an area with Italian or Italian-American grocery customers, you might find beef already sold sliced for braciole, and that should work fine. The pieces should be 6 or 8 inches long (15 to 20 cm), and three or four inches wide (7 to 10 cm). If the slices you have are too thick, pound them out a bit until they’re in shape.
Salt and pepper each piece a bit, and then spread each on one face with a thin layer of mustard – a German variety is canonical, of course, but I’ve also used Dijon with no complaints. Never have I seen it done with the bright-yellow stuff, but if you try it, let me know. At this point I sprinkle on a single layer of the chopped onion (I’ve used yellow or red), and press that a bit into the mustard and meat to try to hold things together a bit. Now comes the bacon. I have heard of this being done with cooked chopped bacon, but my own rouladen have been with either straight-out-of-the-fridge slices of bacon, or slices partially cooked. Lay these on top of the onions. If you’re going to try chopped, my advice is to chop the bacon up uncooked, since bacon grease itself is a major food group.
Now it’s time for the pickle. The idea here is to lay a not-too-large whole pickle (or a pickle spear) across the roll near one end, and starting on that end, roll the whole thing up so that the pickle is left in the middle. Use judgment on the pickle; a great honkin’ gherkin will turn these into Pickle Rolls, which isn’t the idea. At this point, you’ll have to secure the roll with a bit of twine or toothpicks; otherwise it’ll fall apart on cooking and handling. Continue this procedure to make as many rouladen as you like, or as many as you think your dinner companions can stand.
Now heat some oil in a heavy pan that can be covered, and brown the rouladen for a bit, turning them to get all the sides. You may want to do this in more than one batch to prevent them from just steaming instead; crowding the pan is always a mistake in a step like this. Once browned, though, get everything back in the pan or pot, cover, and simmer on low heat for roughly an hour, depending on what size batch you’ve got going. The bacon should have rendered and the meat should be cooked through; this is not one of those dishes used to show how rare you like your beef. Remove the rouladen and thicken the remaining liquid with a bit of flour mixed with water (or wine, if you’re a Rhinelander), heating and stirring this to make a gravy to pour over the rolls themselves. You’re done!
You will not be surprised to hear that the traditional accompaniments for this classic German dish are potatoes and cabbage. I’ve seen it served with homemade mashed potatoes, and with potato pancakes or a hash-brown-like preparation (as you head down into Switzerland, you’re going to the homeland of rösti potatoes, and I think that would go well here, too). The traditional cabbage is sweet-and-sour red cabbage, often cooked with apples, but I’ll leave these up to the discretion of the preparer. Enjoy!