Monday, January 27, 2014


I offer this to you with the pictures intact, even though they are not what a professional food stylist and photographer could do. Still, this is about what rouladins will look like in your kitchen.  

Rouladins (pronounced roo-LAH-dins) are an old family favorite from my growing up years. I have never seen a recipe for them in any cookbook, and so don't know what ethnic origin they may be or what variations on them may exist. They make for a very simple recipe. You start with beef round steak, some sliced onion, dill pickle spears, and bacon. Real bacon is best, but I used turkey bacon and the smoky flavor seemed just about right.

One pound of round steak will give you four roughly uniform pieces. With a heavy saucer, you can pound each steak a little tenderer than it would be otherwise. Lay on a strip or two of bacon, then a piece of onion and a dill pickle spear. Roll up the steak and either secure the package with toothpicks (my dad could do this, but it is tricky) or tie it at both ends with kitchen string.

Then you will simply brown each meat package in olive oil or shortening. All the cookbooks are right, of course, about not crowding the pan, lest the meat steam to grayness rather than sear nicely. I did two at a time, and removed each batch before browning the next.

When the last batch of little meat packages is browned, return them all to the pot and add water to about halfway up their depth in it. The bacon and pickle in the recipe mean you do not need to add salt to this broth. Bring the rouladins to a boil, and then either turn the heat down and simmer them carefully for two or three more hours, or cover the pot with a lid and put it in a 350 degree oven. After it has baked for an hour, turn the heat down to 225 and let the stew cook slowly for two or three more hours. When you are ready to serve, you can thicken the broth with a combination of flour and cold water dissolved together and stirred into the pot.

For some reason, rouladins make this excellent, velvety brown gravy effortlessly. Mashed potatoes are vital to accompany it. A sweet vegetable like carrots or peas is also a good counterpoint to the piquancy of pickle, onion, and bacon in the beef.

The choice of wine to go with this is something that I think would challenge anyone. A workhorse sweet riesling? A big, heavy, California cabernet? I chose what I hoped would be the fleshy but un-tannic, solid berry flavors of an everyday ($8.99) Rhone red: Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone 2006, from Paul Jaboulet Aine (60 percent grenache, 40 percent syrah). Pretty good the first night, better the next night with the leftovers.

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