Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All About Rouladen: A German Specialty

Two of Germany's specialties known around the world are Rinderrouladen and Sauerbraten. The latter, which I wrote about recently, is well known by its German name. So is Rinderrouladen--or just Rouladen, as it is most often called. In some English-language cookbooks, however, they are called beef rolls as that is what they are: rolled up slices of beef wrapped around a filling.  They are also called beef olives.  (The picture above shows a Roulade, red cabbage and mashed potatoes. This was the specialty of the day at noon hour at the Gasthaus Edelweiss in Hugsweier the day I was there.)

I have cooked Rinderrouladen both here and in Nova Scotia.  As is the case for Sauerbraten, recipes vary from cookbook to cookbook and place to place.  Neither one is a Baden-Württemberg specialty, but they are both made by housewives throughout the country and both find their way onto Sunday menus, to Fests and as a specialty of the day at a Gasthaus. 

According to Wikipedia.org, Rinderrouladen usually consist of bacon, onions, mustard and dill pickle, all wrapped in thinly sliced beef and then cooked.  (This is traditional in most recipes for it today.)  Beef or veal is used as the meat, although, they say, food scholars believe the original version was venison or pork.  That makes sense to me as in those long-ago days, hunters shot deer and wild boar (as they still do), with various recipes evolving from game.  Pork is still popular in some areas, although beef is the preferred overall.

Beef Rouladen, as we know it today, became popular over the last century.  I don't know how you would feel, but I can say I would not be using pork belly in the filling (mentioned in Wikipedia).  Other things added in earlier years were minced meat, sausage meat and pine nuts--none of which are the usual today.  It can vary from region to region, however, around the world.

Time-Life's The Cooking of Germany, was published in 1969.  It was written by Nika Standen Hazelton, the daughter of a German diplomat.  I subscribed toTime-Life's series "Foods of the World" in the late 1960s.  Each month's edition came with a large-sized book (shown at far left), giving information about the country, its culture, traditions, food and some recipes.  A small-sized one accompanied it (shown on the right)--one to be used in the kitchen--which included all the recipes.  Today, these books are out of print I believe, but you can find them at secondhand book stores and flea markets still.  They are favourites of mine.

The recipe I used when I first prepared Rouladen came from that book.  I now make another, but some of the ingredients and preparation is from this one still.  One of the things it calls for that adds a lot of flavour to the gravy is chopped parsnip.  I usually do not eat parsnip as I don't like it as a vegetable, but it is excellent in this.  I have not seen another Rouladen recipe using this ingredient, but I recommend doing so.  (My mother always used parsnip in her stews as she said it added so much to the taste.  It also makes wonderful soup.)  As an added note, the last time I made Rouladen I did not use parsnip because I couldn't find any at the market.  The dish missed it and so did I!

There is no red wine in this recipe and, in fact, on checking many of my cookbooks, broth from the vegetables is often used instead.  This recipe is quite traditional other than for the parsnip.  Here it is, from Time-Life's The Cooking of Germany.

Rouladen:  Serves 6
*3 pounds top round steak, sliced 1/2 inch thick (trimmed of fat) and pounded to 1/4 inch thick
6 teaspoons Düsseldorf-style (German) prepared mustard or other hot prepared mustard
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
6 slices lean bacon, each about 8 inches long
3 dill pickles, rinsed in cold water and cut lengthwise into halves
3 tablespoons lard
2 cups water
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/4 cup thinly sliced leeks, white part only
1 tablespoon finely chopped scraped parsnip
3 parsley sprigs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter (I always use unsalted butter in cooking)
2 tablespoons flour

Cut the steak into 6 rectangular pieces about 4 inches wide and 8 inches long.  (*You should be able to buy beef Rouladen already cut into thin pieces and ready to be used.)  Spread each rectangle with a teaspoon of mustard, sprinkle it with 2 teaspoons onion and place a slice of bacon down the centre.  Lay a pickle across the narrow end of each piece and roll the meat around it, jelly-roll style. 

I fold each long side towards the centre and then roll it from the thick end down towards the narrow end, making sure to tuck that end in well.  Then either use picks to hold it together or, as I do, tie it with string at both ends and down the centre if you wish to make sure it is secure. 

Add the fat to a large deep frying pan and melt it over medium heat until it begins to sputter.  Add the beef rolls and brown really well on all sides. Watch the temperature of the burner so that they brown well and evenly without burning.  Remove the beef rolls to a dish.  Add the water to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping in any brown particles in the bottom and on the sides, as that will add to the colour and the flavour of the gravy.  Add the celery, leeks, parsnip, parsley and salt.  Return the Rouladen to the pan.  Cover and reduce the heat to low; simmer for 1 hour or until the meat shows no resistance when pierced with a fork.  Turn them a couple times during the cooking.  Transfer them to a platter while you make the sauce. 

Sauce:  Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve, pressing down hard on the vegetables to get as much of it through into the dish below (that adds to the thickness of the sauce and to the flavour).  Discard the vegetables left in the sieve.  Measure the liquid, return it to the frying pan and boil it briskly until it is reduced to 2 cups.  Remove from the heat. 

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat; when the foam subsides, sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly, until the flour turns a golden brown.  Do not let it burn.  Gradually stir in the reduced cooking liquid, stirring quickly and continuously with a whisk until the sauce is smooth and thick.  Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning.  Add the Rouladen to the sauce in the pan and simmer it over low heat only until the rolls are heated through.  Serve the Rouladen on a heated platter or casserole dish and pour the sauce over them.  Accompany them with red cabbage, dumplings, boiled or mashed potatoes.  Beer or a Rhone red wine goes well with this.

I now make Rouladen somewhat differently.  I use a combination of two recipes:  the one from Time-Life; the other from Gourmet Cookbook, Vol. I, plus changes of my own.

Rinderrouladen - Beef Rolls:  Serves 4
I used a pottery casserole on one occasion throughout the cooking and then set it directly on the table for serving.  You can also use a heavy iron fry pan for cooking, but I would suggest serving the Rouladen and the sauce in a casserole dish for the table.

4 Rouladen or beef rolls
Salt and pepper
German mustard, medium to extra hot (such as Löwensenf)
Butter and oil
Chopped onion (about 8 teaspoons)
Sliced mushrooms, enough to have a few on top each Rouladen  (or 2 dill pickles, cut in half)
Chopped garlic
5 strips bacon
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 leek, thinly sliced, white part only
2-1/2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsnip (scraped first)
3 sprigs or so of parsley, finely chopped
Cream (optional)

Spread the beef rolls out (they should be fairly thin).  Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Spread German mustard over the length of each (not too thickly and slightly in from all the edges). 

In a large fry pan (heavy iron one for example), heat some oil and butter until hot; saute some onions and mushrooms; add chopped garlic and saute until softened, but not too soft.  Season a little.  Spread over the Rouladen (not too close to the edges).  Place a strip of bacon lengthwise on top of each.  Roll the beef up, closing in sides and then ends as well as you can.  Tie ends (I tied along the length as well, though the ends should be enough).  Dredge the rolls in flour and then shake off the excess.

Add some butter and oil to the pan in which the onions, etc. were sauteed.  Heat until the fat is sputtering.  Add the beef rolls and brown well on all sides.  You don't want them burnt but you want them really brown.  Mix the tomato paste with a little of the red wine.  Pour the remaining red wine over the Rouladen and then stir in the red wine-tomato paste mixture.  Simmer this slowly on top of the stove for about 20 minutes or so.

In the meantime, in a small fry pan, add the 5th slice of bacon and melt it down.  Remove the bacon (you can crumble it and add it later or use it another time).  In that pan, saute the leeks, celery and parsnip a few minutes; add some finely chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 cup or so of water and simmer a few minutes.  Add a little more water.  Pour over the Rouladen and wine mixture; stir it carefully.  Cover it well and simmer it for about 1/2 hour or until the beef rolls are tender.

Before serving, remove the Rouladen from the pan and set them aside.  Don't forget to remove the string or picks as I did!  Pour the liquid and remaining ingredients through a sieve into a bowl.  Strain well, pushing the vegetables through as much as you can.  Discard the vegetables remaining in the strainer.  Simmer the liquid for a few minutes in a small saucepan (or use the pan the bacon was fried in) to reduce it and thicken it somewhat.  Taste for seasoning. 
Place the Rouladen back into the casserole or fry pan and pour the sauce over the top.  Warm it up by simmering it a few minutes or until the beef rolls are just heated through.  Note the light colour of the sauce. I added cream to the sauce, which turned it a golden colour.  The dark sauce is traditional and without cream.

Serve the Rouladen with red cabbage, brussel sprouts or carrots along with potatoes of your choice.  A good Rhone or Burgundy red wine is excellent with this dish. 

Rinderrouladen and Sauerbraten take time to prepare and cook, but some of the preparation can be done ahead.  Both are perfect for a Sunday dinner or entertaining close friends at home.  They are dishes you can make your own by adding a different ingredient, deleting one you may not like or by adding an herb to the sauce.

Guten Appetit!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A German Specialty: Sauerbraten

One of Germany's specialties known around the world is Sauerbraten.  I'm sure most people do not need a translation, as when it comes to Sauterbraten that is what it is called everywhere, in English as in Deutsch.  Nearly every German cookbook with recipes for meat dishes has a recipe for it as do many English-language cookbooks.  As with any dish, the recipes can vary, especially here in Germany from one part of the country to another.

Sauerbraten is not a regular menu item in Baden-Württemberg but is mostly offered as a specialty of the day.  One can sometimes find it on a Sunday menu, for example.  I have seen it served at Fests as well.

Sauerbraten  is a specialty of the northern state of Nordrhein-Westfalen--known in English as the Rhineland.  That dish found its way across the country (and the world), with housewives everywhere preparing it for a Sunday dinner or other special occasion.  In the Rhineland, it is often their Christmas Day dinner.  Most recipes maintain the original ingredients, but with some variations from housewife to housewife, area to area.

The page opposite is from my cookbook Culinaria Deutschland, with the recipe following.

Lebkuchen cookies in the box below.  Many German women, of course, make their own.  

Many North American cookbooks call for using crushed gingersnaps.  The classic Rhineland recipe calls for Lebkuchen crumbs--the latter from those cookies Germans love at Christmas.  (There is no ginger in Lebkuchen.)  Also classic is the addition of raisins.  Sauerbraten is marinated in red wine vinegar and usually also in red wine for two to three days ahead of the actual cooking.  In one of my cookbooks they state that four to five days is even better!  The longer you leave it, the more sour it will be.  The important thing to remember is that this dish needs time so one must plan ahead.

Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker in their cookbook The Joy of Cooking do not call for any wine, just mild vinegar or wine vinegar.  Perhaps the reason wine was not called for was because at the time of the writing of their cookbook (1931), wine was seldom used in North American home cooking.  In Europe, it has been used for likely a few hundred years at least--in the early times by those who could afford to do so.

My German cookbooks all call for wine.  Some recipes (not German ones!) call for ketchup.  The Gourmet Cookbook, Vol. I calls for stewed tomatoes and 2 slices of lemon, a little sugar and paprika.  It does not call for wine or wine vinegar, just water with a little vinegar added.  It also says that gingersnap crumbs may be added.  From all of these variations--additions and deletions--one can see how the recipe has changed from place to place.

Rheinischer Sauerbraten:  Makes 6 servings.  This recipe, which I have translated into English in my own style, is from the cookbook Culinaria Deutchland.  It calls for 1 kilo of beef (without bone). 

1/4 liter red wine
1/4 liter wine vinegar (red)
1/2 liter water
2 bay leaves
8 juniper berries
4 red peppercorns
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 kilo beef (rump)
Salt and pepper
30 grams Butterschmalz (a mixture of butter and fat)
1 bunch Suppengrün, cut into pieces*
60 grams Lebkuchen crumbs**
1 tablespoon apple kraut***
Sour cream****
1 apple, peeled and diced
100 grams raisins

*In German supermarkets, Suppengrün usually consists of a carrot or two, an onion, leek, parsley root and celery root tied together in a bundle, much like bouquet garni is tied together.

**Lebkuchen crumbs--or the Lebkuchen cookies and crumbled into crumbs--can perhaps be found at a German deli or in a large supermarket in North America.  You can also leave them out.  Otherwise, use crumbled honey cake or gingersnap crumbs; the taste will be somewhat different but should work well.

***Apple kraut is a type of syrup and likely difficult to find in North America.  You can substitute some honey or a little sugar if wished--or leave it out.

****Sour cream in Germany is naturally soured by bacteria, whereas in North America it is artificially soured.  That makes quite a difference to the flavour.  Hans recommends using whipping cream or creme fraiche instead.

Method:  Place the red wine, vinegar and water along with the bay leaves, juniper berries, red and black peppercorns in a pot; bring those ingredients to a boil.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  When cooled, pour over the beef in a pot that holds it all well, but isn't too large.  The liquid will not completely cover the beef.  Turn the beef over in the marinade on all sides.  Then, cover the pot tightly and put in a cool place to marinate for at least two days, turning the beef once a day.

Remove the beef from the marinade and dry it well.  Sprinkle it with salt and pepper.  In the Butterschmalz (or butter and oil), brown the beef well on all sides; you want it well browned as that will add to the flavour of the beef and the gravy.  Add the cut-up Suppengrün vegetables to the pot and brown briefly.

Pour the marinade, Lebkuchen crumbs and apple kraut (if using) over the beef in the pot.  Cover it well and over medium heat simmer it for 1-1/2 to 2 hours (or until very tender).  Remove the beef from the liquid and keep it warm.  Put the sauce through a sieve and stir in the sour cream (or sweet cream), simmering it, adding salt, pepper and sugar to taste (sweet-sour flavour).  Add the diced apple and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Shortly before it is ready, add the raisins and simmer a couple of minutes longer.  Slice the beef and place on a pre-warmed platter.  Serve with the sauce, applesauce and Klösse (dumplings).

Gertrud's Sauerbraten:  My friend Gertrud Binder grew up in the State of Hessen, in a picturesque town not far from Darmstadt and Frankfurt.  She does not use red wine or wine vinegar; instead, she uses white vinegar with water.  The reason, she says, is that after she married and was living in Hollywood, California, wine vinegars were difficult or impossible to find.  That has changed now, of course, as wine vinegars can be found everywhere.  Even though she later moved back to Germany, she still uses vinegar only.  (She uses Essig essence, which is a concentrated form of white vinegar.  She uses one part white vinegar essence to five parts water.)  

Gertrud also adds Lebkuchen crumbs--without any icing, chocolate or topping on them if using those cookies; you must cut it all off first.  See three types at left.  You can also buy the cookies without any topping. She also uses raisins.  Her marinade includes:  2 cloves (no more, she says), a bay leaf, black peppercorns, juniper berries, onion, carrot, white vinegar and water.

Gertrud's method (similar--but not quite the same--to most Rheinland recipes in German cookbooks, although she is not from the Rhineland):  Bring marinade to the boil.  (Most Rheinland recipes cool the marinade first.)  Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper.  Place it in a casserole or pot and pour the hot marinade over it (it will not be totally covered).  Top with a lid and marinate for three days, turning it each day.  After the three days, remove the beef and dry it.  Brown it well in a pan on the stove in butter and oil, adding the Lebkuchen crumbs to it (she says the crumbs added at this time add a stronger flavour to the dish).  Heat the marinade if it has cooled and pour it over the beef, including all the spices and vegetables in the marinade.  Top it with a lid and simmer it on top of the stove or in the oven for about two hours.

Remove beef from the casserole.  Pour the marinade through a sieve, pushing the vegetables hard through the strainer, and then pour the strained marinade into the empty casserole again; add the raisins and taste for seasoning and flavour.  Add some Bratenfond or part of a dry package of beef gravy as without it there will not be enough flavour from the marinade.  
Slice the meat and either serve it separately on a platter or place it back into the casserole dish with some of the gravy (traditional).  Serve it with red cabbage and apple sauce.  Klösse (dumplings) are traditional also, but Gertrud's mother accompanied Sauerbraten with spaghetti noodles (unusual) and Gertrud has continued that custom.  In our area of Baden-Württemberg many serve Spätzle--a specialty here--instead of Klösse.

Spätzle, a specialty in our area, is shown at right next to the pear filled with cranberry sauce.

Hans' Sauerbraten: Hans uses red wine and red wine vinegar in his marinade; also 3 to 4 bay leaves, peppercorns, 2 cloves, 10 juniper berries and 2 to 3 whole peeled garlic cloves, cut in half.  He also adds carrot, some leek, and onion as well as parsley root and celery root.  He does not use either Lebkuchen crumbs or raisins (his preference).  Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.  Pour it over the beef in a pot that fits it well, cover it tightly, and marinate it for three to four days, turning it once a day.

He removes the beef and dries it well and then browns it in Butterschmalz (butter and oil).  You want it very well browned.  He covers it with the marinade (including all the vegetables) and lets it simmer for two to three hours or until very tender.  

He removes the beef from the pan, slices it and keeps it warm.  He then pours the marinade through a sieve and pushes hard on the vegetables to get as much through as possible, as that will help thicken the sauce.  To the sieved sauce, he adds a little Bratenfond, creme fraiche (not sour cream) and a teaspoon or so of sugar and a little red currant jelly.  Add additional seasoning, if needed, to taste.  He usually serves the meat in some sauce, with additional sauce in a gravy boat, kept over a candle.  We always accompany Sauerbraten with red cabbage and Klösse and boiled or mashed potatoes (the latter, my favourite).

Picture top left:  Sauerbraten with potato croquettes, Spätzle and green beans.  We had this meal at one of our regular Gasthäuser, the Gasthaus Engel in Dörlinbach.  My wine of choice:  Weissherbst, as shown.

 The dinner at right was at home.  The picture shows a dumpling (Klösse), topped with some buttered breadcrumbs, along with red cabbage and mashed potatoes.  I also like cranberry sauce, which is shown as well.

There are many other variations to Sauerbraten:  all from Grandma and Oma's kitchens, passed down through the years and across the world.  With everyone who prepares this recipe, changes will continue to be made.  That is how food dishes continue to evolve.

Guten Appetit!