Classic Beef Rouladen

It was the first time I had ever sampled roulade (Rinderrouladen in German), which I prepared with strangers at the Germanic-American Institute in Minneapolis. As my visit to Berlin was approaching in a few months, I reasoned that it wouldn’t harm to get an early start on some cultural activities, namely food. Despite having lived in Germany for several years and having sampled an abundance of other delectable traditional German dishes, roulade remains an annual wintertime favorite of mine.

Each family has its own conception of what qualifies as a delectable roulade, much like numerous cherished recipes. Upon Christmas, it is unquestionably a winter meal, as is universally acknowledged.

Consider the following information prior to attempting this traditional German dish at home.

What Is Rouladen?

Rouladen is made simply by smearing thinly sliced beef with mustard and rolling it around bacon, onion, and pickles. The beef rolls are cooked with onions and carrots in a red wine sauce after being tied with toothpicks or butcher’s thread. Roulade fillings vary by area and may include hard-boiled eggs, sausage, or even other meats such as veal or pork.

Consuming a large piece of these soft beef buns packed with pickles and bacon is nothing short of pleasant. What’s even great is that you don’t have to live in Germany to eat or make delicious roulade.

How To Make Rouladen

Rouladen appears to be a straightforward dish based on its ingredients; however, its preparation does require some time and effort. A brief explanation of how to create them and potential dangers follows:

  1. Slice up the fillings for the beef and the vegetables for the gravy.
  2. Fill the beef and secure.
  3. Sear the roulade in a skillet and remove to a plate.
  4. Add vegetables and red wine to create the pan sauce.
  5. Add the roulade back to the sauce in the skillet and braise until very tender.
  6. Remove the tender roulade and reduce the sauce.
  7. Serve.

 

Buying Beef for Rouladen

In Germany, beef round, a very lean area from the back leg of the cow, is sliced very thinly at the butcher counter for roulade. In the United States, however, this exact cut is not available, so you must ask your butcher for a thin cut off the round.

The optimum measurements are around 7 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick. You’ll need six pieces for this recipe. Thin pieces of flank steak, which can be gently pounded to about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick, are an alternative.

How I Simplify the Pan Sauce

In Germany, most pan sauces are strained so they’re smooth. I chose not to do that for this recipe, as it’s an extra step that I simply don’t find necessary for the home cook. The sauce can reduce and thicken all the same without being strained, and since only soft carrots and onions are used here, they don’t disrupt the texture too much. If you want to keep it classic, strain the sauce before reducing it, or opt to purée it with the solids.

Can You Make Rouladen Ahead of Time?

This is not usually cooked in advance; instead, it’s a dish best enjoyed on special occasions or winter weekends. But, you can prepare and roll the beef rolls ahead of time and store them, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to two days if you’d like to reduce the amount of time you have to prepare them on the day of cooking.

 

What To Serve With Rouladen

In Germany, meat dishes, especially in the winter, are served with boiled potatoes (called Salzkartoffeln in German) and braised red cabbage. Rouladen is no exception. However, you can enjoy roulade with spaetzle or simply boiled egg noodles, mashed potatoes for soaking up all that gravy, German bread or potato dumplings if you’re feeling a bit adventurous in the kitchen, or even sauerkraut.

Classic Beef Rouladen

Reheating Leftover Rouladen

The most effective method for reheating any residual roulade is by reintroducing it to a Dutch oven alongside the remaining gravy. Stir in a splash of water, cover, and heat over medium heat, making adjustments with additional water or broth as necessary, approximately every 10 minutes, or until the roulade are thoroughly heated and the gravy becomes viscous but still pourable. There is a possibility that this will require thirty minutes.

If you prefer to consume them faster, you may also microwave them for one minute on medium-high, covered, until thoroughly heated.

In Germany, beef segments, specifically for roulade, are available at the butcher counter. This precise cut is not available in the United States; therefore, you will need to inquire whether your butcher can narrowly slice a portion from the round (eye round, top round, or bottom round). Optimal dimensions are approximately 7 by 5 inches in length and 1/4 inch in thickness. In the absence of a butcher capable of performing this task, an alternative would be to utilize flank steak that has been sliced thinly and pounded to a thickness of 1/2 to 1/4 inch.

Ingredients

For the roulade

  • 6 thin slices of beef round or thin flank steak (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 medium dill pickle spears
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons German mustard, such as Löwensenf (a good substitute is Dijon mustard)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the gravy

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon pickle brine (optional)

Method

  1. Assemble the rouladen: 

    Slice the dill pickles in half lengthwise, then slice each half again lengthwise so you have 12 small spears.

    Lay a slice of beef on a cutting board. Season all over with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add about half a tablespoon of the mustard and smear it all over the beef. Lay a piece of bacon lengthwise onto the beef, then add 2 pickle spears and a few slices of onion. Tuck the long sides of the roulade into the center about 1/2 inch, then roll up from the short side to the short side. This ensures the fillings will stay inside the roulade. Secure with toothpicks or butcher’s twine.

    Repeat for all of the rouaden, then season the outsides with more salt and pepper.

    Classic Beef Rouladen
     
     
     
  2. Sear the roulade:

    Set a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add the rouladen (depending on the size of your Dutch oven, you may have to work in batches so you don’t crowd the pot) and sear on all sides until the beef is dark brown all over, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer them to a separate plate and turn the heat down to medium.

    Classic Beef Rouladen
     
  3. Prepare the pan sauce:

    Add the onion and carrots and let cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato paste, stirring well to combine, and let cook until the tomato paste turns dark and starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir, letting it cook a little bit too. Once the flour is incorporated, add the red wine and use your spoon to scrape up all the stuck-on bits. Add the beef stock and bring everything up to a simmer.

    Classic Beef Rouladen
     
  4. Braise:

    Once the sauce in the pot is simmering, add the rouladen back to the pot, tucking them into the sauce. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Let braise for at least 1 hour. Then, check them by sticking a sharp paring knife into the center of one and lifting it gently up. It should be so tender that it falls straight off the knife right away, barely making it out of the pot. If it’s not that tender, keep braising, covered, until it is.

    Classic Beef Rouladen
     
     
     
  5. Reduce the sauce:

    Once the rouladen are tender, remove them with tongs to a serving platter and remove the toothpicks or butcher’s twine. Let the pan sauce reduce over medium-high heat until thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add butter and a splash of pickle brine, if you’d like. Then taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

    Classic Beef Rouladen
     
  6. Serve:

    Pour the gravy all over the rouladen and serve immediately with your choice of sides. Guten appetit!

    Classic Beef Rouladen
     
    Classic Beef Rouladen
     

     

FAQ

What is Classic Beef Rouladen?

Classic Beef Rouladen is a traditional German dish made with thinly sliced beef, typically round or flank steak, which is rolled up with a filling of mustard, onions, bacon or ham, and pickles. The rolled beef is then seared and braised until tender in a flavorful gravy, resulting in a rich and comforting dish.

How do I make Classic Beef Rouladen?

To begin preparing Classic Beef Rouladen, tenderize thin beef segments by pounding them. Then, arrange pickled spears, bacon or ham, and thinly sliced onions on top of each slice that has been smeared with mustard. Tightly roll the beef segments and fasten them with kitchen twine or toothpicks. Using oil or butter, sauté the roulade in a skillet until it is crisp-tender on all sides. Setting aside, remove the roulade from the skillet. After softening minced celery, carrots, and onions in the same skillet, deglaze the pan with beef broth or red wine. Simmer the roulade in the gravy after returning it to the skillet, until tender. Crosswise sliced rouladen should be served steaming with gravy spooned over the top.

What ingredients are needed for Classic Beef Rouladen?

The main ingredients for Classic Beef Rouladen include:

    • Thinly sliced beef (round or flank steak)
    • Mustard
    • Onions
    • Bacon or ham
    • Pickle spears
    • Oil or butter
    • Beef broth or red wine
    • Diced onions, carrots, and celery (for the gravy)
    • Salt and pepper Optional ingredients for the filling or gravy may include garlic, bay leaves, thyme, or paprika for added flavor.

 

Can I make Classic Beef Rouladen ahead of time?

Indeed, Classic Beef Rouladen may be pre-assembled and refrigerated until the time of preparation. Before heating, prepare the rouladen according to the instructions, then cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. As directed, sauté the rouladen in a skillet prior to cooking. Subsequently, prepare the gravy and bring the rouladen to a simmer until tender. Additionally, rouladen that has been prepared in advance can be refrigerated for two to three days prior to service.

What are some serving suggestions for Classic Beef Rouladen?

Classic Beef Rouladen is traditionally served with sides such as mashed potatoes, spaetzle, or buttered egg noodles to soak up the delicious gravy. Steamed vegetables or braised cabbage make excellent accompaniments to the rich flavors of the rouladen. Garnish the rouladen with chopped parsley or fresh herbs for a pop of color and freshness before serving.

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