FORT LEE, Va. – There's hardly a dish more traditionally German than beef rouladen – perfectly seasoned, totally tender rolls of stuffed beef in a luscious brown sauce. And, there's hardly anyone more qualified to share the secrets of preparing it than Arno Franke, a master butcher for the Defense Commissary Agency, who also happens to have six years of training as a cook – first in the German army, then as a restaurant hotel chef. Today he travels a circuit of European commissaries making sure each local store's meat department is serving its customers just right.
According to Franke, a lifelong resident of Bamberg, Germany, beef rouladen is a traditional Bavarian dish that is now commonly served in restaurants and homes throughout the country. That's because it's so good, everybody wants to know how to make it. It's perfect for a traditional Sunday family meal, or anytime company is expected. “There's nothing complicated about it,” Franke said. “It takes a few minutes to put it all together, but the more you do it, the easier, and quicker it gets.”
If you shop one of the European commissaries, you will find a cut specifically labeled “top–round for rouladen” in the fresh meat case. If you're located elsewhere, but your commissary has an in–store butcher, ask for scallops of top round cut one–quarter–inch thick. Chances are fairly good the butcher will know exactly what you need. Especially when you tell him you are making rouladen. Don't bother trying this at a retail grocer outside the gate. Unless you happen to live in an area heavily populated with German–Americans, they will have no clue what you're talking about. They don't have the international flair and well–traveled clientele that we have. Just one more reason that shopping the commissary is always worth the trip!
Serve beef rouladen with braised red cabbage and spätzle or creamy mashed potatoes.
Arno's Beef Rouladen
1 1/2 to 2 pounds “Top Round for Rouladen” — two packages containing 3 scallops each — makes about 12 rolls
2 tablespoons German mustard (Dijon mustard may be substituted)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped dill pickle (choose a firm dill that's not too sour or too salty)
2 slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups canned, low sodium beef broth
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 large rib celery, thinly sliced
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 leek (white part only) halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and coarsely diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup half–and–half
1/4 cup evaporated skim milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sautè bacon and 1/2 cup onion in medium skillet over moderate heat until bacon is crisp and onion is tender, but not browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Mix in the parsley, remove from heat and stir in the pickle. Let cool while you prepare the beef scallops.
Spread the beef scallops on a wax paper covered counter or cutting board. Trim so each is about 3 inches wide and 6 inches long. Trim off and discard any ragged edges.
Thinly spread each scallop with mustard. Evenly divide the filling mixture among the scallops, arranging neatly across one short end.
From the short end, roll each scallop around the filling, jelly roll style, into a cylinder. Secure each roll with a toothpick, pinching ends together to prevent the filling from oozing out during cooking.
Heat the butter and oil in a 12–inch skillet. Add beef rolls and brown on all sides, slowly, so as not to burn them. Transfer rolls to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Pour beef broth into skillet and heat, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan into the broth. Add the chopped onion, celery, carrots, leek and potato.
Return beef rolls to skillet. Cook at high heat until liquid begins to bubble, then lower heat, cover skillet and simmer for 1 to 1¼ hours until a fork easily pierces through each beef roll.
Remove beef rolls to heated platter and keep warm while you finish the sauce.
Strain the cooking liquid, saving both the solids and the liquid. Return the liquid to the skillet and heat to a simmer.
Puree the solids by blending 15 to 20 seconds in a blender at high speed or in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade.
Smooth the puree back into the skillet, stir in the tomato paste, half–and–half and evaporated milk. Adjust the temperature so the mixture simmers gently. Keep the heat low — allowing the sauce to boil may cause it to curdle.
Return the beef rolls to the skillet, cover, and warm slowly in the sauce 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.