If you are German, you have probably heard of rouladen, a very traditional dish in German cooking. If you haven’t, rouladen (roo-la-din) is a pickle slice and a few other vegetables and seasonings, and usually bacon also, wrapped in a thin piece of steak. It may sound strange, but it is delicious. I have a very pleasant memory of another traditional German meal that Marie and I enjoyed in California when our friend Norbert invited us to dinner ... Sauerbraten. Yes, Norbert was from Germany, and his sauerbraten was similar in preparation by using red wine vinegar as a tart ingredient like the pickle juice used in the rouladen recipe.
The recipe below is a composite of two recipes I found on the Internet. Note that there are two different ways of using the bacon provided in the directions below so be sure to read the directions all the way through and then decide which method you will use. The picture shown with this recipe is the that of the method where the raw bacon is wrapped around the rolled beef prior to cooking. I have to try this recipe and then I will report back with results, but I intend to use the alternative method of pre-frying the bacon and tying the rouladen rolls with string prior to cooking. I think that method will be superior in holding the contents of the rolled beef in place during cooking.
Note that typical items served with rouladen are spatzle and hot pickled red cabbage. Noodles can be substituted for the spatzle. Hot freshly made applesauce is another nice accompaniment.
Thin-cut top round steak (About 1.5 pounds cut into 4 thin pieces)
2 whole dill pickles (cut into fourths)
Pickle juice (32 oz.)
1 to 2 teaspoons of beef bouillon or two to four beef bullion cubes
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
One Green Bell pepper sliced thinly with each piece cut in half
One medium size sweet onion sliced thinly and cut in half to form small pieces
8 slices of raw Bacon
If you use the primary recipe directions below then do not fry the bacon first. If you use the alternative method then fry the bacon until it is almost crisp and then drain it on a paper towel and set it aside. Reserve the bacon grease in a small dish.
Flatten and tenderize the steaks with a meat mallet.
Cut each piece of meat in half so that you have 8 pieces of meat, each about 6 inches long.
Cut the two whole dill pickles into quarters lengthwise.
Lightly sprinkle each side of the meat with garlic salt and dried parsley.
Spread a very light coating of mustard on the top surface of each piece of meat.
Put a few slices of the green pepper and the onion, evenly distributed, on the top surface of each piece of meat.
Place a piece of the pickle across the meat at the narrow end and (but see alternative method below) roll it up tightly inside the meat along with the other vegetables, being careful to keep all the ingredients inside the rolled up meat and evenly distributed.
If you do not use the alternative method described below then wrap a piece of bacon around each piece of meat to hold it together.
In a typical rouladen recipe the meat is tied up with string to keep it together, but wrapping it in raw bacon (as opposed to putting fried bacon inside) is an easy trick so you don’t have to cut off strings at serving time.
The alternative method is to pre-fry the bacon until it is nearly crisp and put one piece inside the meat roll with the vegetables, and then tie each rolled up piece of meat with string fairly tightly, once around the middle of the roll and also once end to end. The tying guarantees that each roll will remain tight and not lose any content into the skillet during cooking.
The rouladen is now ready to cook.
If you used the method of putting the pre-fried bacon inside each roll then add two to three tablespoons of the reserved bacon grease to a hot skillet.
Brown the meat in the skillet at medium to high heat, turning the pieces every few minutes to cook each side. The meat will slow cook all the way through later during the simmering step.
When the meat is browned, or the wrapped raw bacon mostly fried, add 2 cups of water to the skillet and bring it to a boil, using a spoon to scrape any meat drippings from the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the meat for 30 minutes, uncovered. The water should bubble slightly during simmering.
Add 1 to 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of pickle juice after the 30 minutes, and continue doing this every 15 minutes for two hours total, but do not add too much liquid, ergo, don't completely submerge the meat. If you haven’t used all the pickle juice by the end, add the rest. Also, you can always add more water during simmering to make sure the meat is barely covered, depending on how quickly the water evaporates.
After two hours, take the meat out of the pan and place the pieces in a serving dish, leaving the remaining liquid in the skillet.
Make the gravy for the rouladen. Stir 1 to 2 teaspoons of beef bouillon or two to four bullion cubes into the liquid. Taste it and add more if you want it saltier.
Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to make a thickener.
Slowly whisk the thickener into the liquid to make a gravy. Heat the gravy to a boil while whisking until it thickens.
Serve the rouladen hot with the gravy ladled over it in the serving dish.
As noted in the introduction, spatzle and hot pickled red cabbage are traditional accompaniments served with rouladen. Noodles can be substituted for the spatzle. Homemade hot applesauce is also a nice addition.