Monday, 25 March 2013

rolling out rouladen...

The fresh smell of spring in the air awakens our olfactory senses, connecting us to memories of our youth, the springtime of our lives. Out for a walk the other day among the farms of South Surrey, the smell of freshly fertilised fields (ie. manure) set my train of memory to when I was an exchange student in Switzerland. Plucked from the centre of Canada's largest city, I suddenly found myself in the thriving metropolis that is Berlincourt; a hamlet of 150 people and just about as many cows. My favourite chore was to take a handful of francs to the stables at the start of the street (yes, start of the street - city-slicker me walked past a dairy barn everyday for 3-months), place them on a plate, and fill the container with the freshest milk you could possibly imagine; we'd pour the milk through a strainer into our glasses, leaving the curdled fat from heating behind. But that's another story.

A winter's view of bovine-bustling Berlincourt
My journey down Swiss memory lane instead inspired me to make rouladen for dinner. Although German in origin, it is a dish that we would occasionally have for Sunday dinner in the French-speaking Jura. Made from thin slices of topside or round steak, rouladen are rather like mustard-spiced beefy maki-sushi rolls stuffed with bacon and pickles, slow simmered in a red-wine sauce for several hours. Often served with spätzle or boiled potatoes, the Swiss-family version was served with the überly Swiss German rösti; pan-fried grated potatoes.

Today, however, I made a few twists to these rolls of beef based on what my pantry provided. The recipe below is based on the traditional rouladen, and I've noted in italics my adjustments:


4 thin slices top round beef, approx. 150g each          2 tsp Hungarian paprika
2 tsp mustard powder                                                  Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices bacon (or turkey bacon)                                 1 small onion, sliced
2 large dill pickles, sliced (2 pickled beets, sliced)     2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil                                                                      2 tbsp flour
1 cup beef stock                                                           1 cup red wine
(or 2/3 cup each stock, red wine, and pickling juice - my beets pickled in vinegar, thyme, and caraway)
1)      Season beef with paprika, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Flatten with tenderiser until 1/3 cm thick, being careful not to puncture holes through meat.

2)      Arrange 1 slice of bacon lengthwise on each slice of beef. Place sliced pickles and onions crosswise over each slice of beef.

3)      Roll each slice of beef, being careful not to loose any filling. Secure rolls with toothpicks inserted on top and sides of each roll.

4)      Heat butter and oil in large, oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. Add rolls and fry until brown. Remove and set aside.

5)      Add flour to frying pan and cook over medium low until thick and flour is golden brown.

6)      Slowly stir in stock and red wine until a smooth liquid is formed. Bring to a boil and add rolls.
Cover pan and cook in 350F oven for 1 ½ hours.

And since Switzerland introduced me to the wonderful world of wine (well, alcohol in general), what would rouladen be without a glass of wine? Inspired by my adobong tasting exercise, I sampled the following to see how they would work with rouladen (listed in order from best to least):

Barolo (Mauro Veglio 2007, Piedmont Italy) - Germany is Italy's number 1 customer when it comes to importing red wine, so no surprise the Barolo worked so well! Barolos are a natural friend to slow cooked meaty stews, and high-acidity played nicely with my vinegared-broth;
Hermitage (Guigal 2005, Northern Rhone France) - Similar flavour profiles to the stew (white pepper, acidity, meatyness), but the Barolo was just slightly better;
Syrah (Nichol 2010, Okanagan BC) - Syrah is the grape of Hermitage, so why not try the Northern Rhone-inspired Nichol? A very close third, but someone always has to take home bronze;
Dry Riesling (Mount Horrocks, Clare Valley AU) - Sufficient acidity to balance with the rouladen broth, but too delicate a wine to stand up against the more intensely flavoured stew;
Pinot Noir (Cambria 2009, Santa Barbara CA) - A nice wine in itself bu much too light and delicate a wine to stand up to the weight of the stew. 

Overall, a delicious dinner. It's just sad to say that the whole idea came from the smell of manure-laden fields. In the end, it just goes to show you that inspiration can truly be found anywhere.

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