Beef and Pickles

Sunday nights are the best for cooking in the Gone Mild household. Weekdays call out creativity in terms of meeting the twin challenges of tasty and nutritious, but time is a limiting factor. Sometimes, the extra challenge inspires, but nothing inspires quite like having an entire Sunday afternoon to shop, cook and serve.

Yesterday, I tackled a German challenge. Rouladen are a traditional German food consisting of beef rolled around onions, mustard, bacon and pickles, and then simmered in gravy for hours. I first had them years ago as prepared by my sister-in-law, and somehow they came up in an IM chat with Karl Timmerman (author of the Weekly Ramblings – a must read for solo and small firm lawyers) on Friday evening.

Yesterday, I bought a bunch of round steak, cut it into 4X6 inch pieces, and pounded it to tenderize and flatten it. (Yes, I know I just offered up a straight line, so have your Junior High fun . . .) Then spread it with mustard (I used dijon, but yellow is fine), chopped onion, chopped raw bacon, pepper, and dill pickle cut into chunks. Then roll it up and tie it with kitchen twine.

Brown the rolls a couple at a time in oil, removing them when browned. After the browning is done, mix in a quarter cup of flour, a little garlic, and a couple tables spoons of tomato paste. After that mix starts to brown, add two cups of water and stir like crazy until the chunks of flour break up. Toss in whatever chopped onion or bacon you have left, put the beef rolls back in the pot, cover, and simmer for a couple hours.

I served them with boiled new red potatoes tossed in butter and parsley, and with cauliflower. I love cooking cauliflower with all kinds of spices and flavors – they absorb flavor and show off color. In this instance, I used onion, Scimeca’s Famous Chicken Spiedini Marinade, smoked paprika, a little cayenne, turmeric and chicken broth.

The rouladen had tremendous flavor. The pickles, when simmered for hours, blend with the bacon and mustard and onion to create a fantastic sweet/savory gravy with just a hint of sour. The meat, however, remained a little tough. I should have called ahead and asked the butcher to slice a few round steaks extra thin, or I should have . . . well, tenderized it more.

There are dozens of variations of rouladen – some don’t even use pickles. If he reads my version, I’m confident Karl will, in fine Germanic fashion, point out where I have strayed from his orthodoxy in several specifics. The fun thing about cooking last night, though, was that I put together a meal based on a long-ago memory and a whole bunch of on-line recipes. I didn’t have anyone to demonstrate the techniques or offer definitive opinions on how much mustard to use. I just read up on an unusual recipe, used my own judgment, and tried it.

I’m sure my version has room for improvement. It didn’t come close to matching the rouladen of my memory. But it was a really good meal, and out of the ordinary. It provided a good background for a little beer, a little wine, and a lot of conversation with friends.

Sundays are my favorite day for cooking.

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