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Rouladen (or Rinderroulade, singular: roulade) is a German meat roulade usually consisting of bacon, onions, mustard and pickles wrapped in thinly sliced beef which is then cooked. In some countries, the roulade is also known as "beef olive".
Beef or veal is used as meat though some food scholars tend to believe that the original version was probably venison or pork, and pork is still popular in some areas. The beef rouladen as we know them today have become popular over the last century. The cut is usually topside beef or silverside since this is the cheaper cut. The more expensive version would be the round steak, also known as rump steak. The meat is cut into large, thin slices.
The filling is a mixture of smoked and cooked pork belly, chopped onions and chopped pickles (gurken) which is at times varied by adding minced meat, sausage meat, pine nuts and mustard. The mixture varies from region to region. Rouladen are traditionally served for dinner. Red wine is often served with this dish.
How it is made
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In preparation, hot mustard is spread onto the thin slices of meat and the prepared filling mixture is added on top. The meat and filling is then rolled up to a traditional elongated shape, similar to a cigar. A thread (traditional), toothpick (modern), or a specialized clamp (also modern) is used to hold the roll together. The rouladen are first seared in a roasting dish together with carrots,onions and bacon until they are nicely browned and the vegetables are somewhat caramelized. Red wine or beer and chicken or vegetable stock are then added, then slowly braised until the meat is tender. The braising takes between one and two hours depending on the meat and preferences. In ALL traditional Rouladen dishes are the thinly sliced beef, mustard, onions, pickles, and carrots. Round steak was used as it was the cheapest cut of meat a family could afford, but it is better when Flank steak or London Broil is used. There are now westernized versions of this dish with celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, and various other vegetables, but ask anyone who grew up in Germany and they will tell you that those are not authentic.
Traditionally, the pan was covered and placed on a raised iron mount, in front of an open fireplace for the braising period. The height of the iron mount and the distance from the fire determined the temperature of the braise. Today, you either put the dish, with a lid, into an oven on at 175 °C (350 °F) or leave the dish on the stove at low temperatures and gently simmer until the meat is tender. The Rouladen rolls are then removed and beer, red wine or vegetable stock is added to the liquid. When the liquid is added, it lifts the flavor from the bottom of the dish to make a sauce for the meat. This liquid is reduced and then thickened to a gravy. The rolls are then returned to the gravy and gently reheated.
This dish originated in Germany. When money was hard to come by, families lived off of what was grown in their gardens. On Sunday family dinners was when Rouladen was made. Round steak was the cheapest meat families could afford so this became a highlight for most families. It has since been served for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and has become a regular dinner fare. During the war, the dish was a staple to the German soldiers, as it was inexpensive and easy to make for the troops. When the American cooks for the U.S. military learned of the dish, they also began to make it for the same reasons. This is how Rouladen came to the United States; The cooks brought home the recipe and started making it for their own families on a budget.
How it is eaten
Rouladen are usually served with either spätzle, potato dumplings or boiled potatoes and red cabbage. Roasted winter vegetables are another common side dish. The gravy is an absolute requirement to round off the dish and is usually poured over the meat. The spätzle are a good complement to the dish since they soak up the gravy well.
This dish was considered a dish for common people; however, it is nowadays enjoyed by many as a festive dish.