Tuesday, April 9, 2013

german rouladen


German food.  Love, love, love it.  While my last post was about the dirty snacking habit of the sweet variety, this one touches on another strange habit I have of eating mustard (all types other than yellow) and sauerkraut right from the jar.  As a whole, this might be more strange, but you can't deny that it is also much more healthy.

That, however, is not what provoked this recipe.  Instead, it was an awesome excursion I took with 19 students to a German restaurant out in the suburbs - Fritzl's.  We had a deliciously filling four-course meal to enjoy while we talked about our upcoming trip to Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France in June.  This will be my third trip into Germany with students, and I can't wait to be back.

You wouldn't be the first to call me crazy when I tell you that every summer I take about 20 teenagers around Europe as an optional extension to the AP European History course I teach.   Far from being nerve-wracking, I always find parents do a great job of determining whether their kid can handle it.  I have also found over the years that traveling with young people - especially on their first trips abroad - can be one of the most rewarding teaching experiences.  I am as passionate about travel as I am about food and history, and in no other classroom besides the streets of Munich, Rome, or Paris can I combine those passions so meaningfully.  I feel privileged to be able to help open up the world for young people and help mold their global citizenship.  I highly recommend Rick Steves' book Travel as a Political Act, if you're interested in my philosophy on teaching through travel.  
Some shots of our lunch at Fritzl's

Coincidentally, I also have a German exchange student from Munich in my World History course at the moment, so life seems to be filled with Bavarian delights.  Here's one for you: Rouladen.

Rouladen is a essentially a German roulade that combines all things fantastically German - meat, mustard, and gherkins - and rolls it all together in braised flavor explosion.  While traditionally it includes bacon rolled in as well, I omitted that to try and save some fat and calories.  I also opted for a leaner cut of meat.  Served up with sauerkraut, it makes for an authentic feast.   I almost went for making scratch spätzle, but overdosed on that at Saturday's lunch.
Ingredients (makes 4 rouladen):
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of top round steak (ideally large cuts thinly sliced)
  • 4-5 tbsp. German-style mustard of your liking
  • 2 cups baby dill pickles, sliced thinly length-wise
  • 1 yellow onion (1/2 diced, 1/2 thinly sliced)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 4 cups stock (veg, chicken, or beef)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Slice and dice all your vegetables and pickles.
Prepare the rouladen by producing four similarly sized cuts of beef of the package you buy (I halved the two slabs in my package weighing 1.2 lbs).  Pound each out to a desired thinness of about 1/4 inch.

Lightly salt each piece of beef, then smear with about 1 tbsp. of mustard.  Layer a quarter of the sliced onion and a quarter of the sliced pickles on top.  Carefully roll each piece, securing with twine or  a skewer.
In a dutch oven, heat a 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil.  On high heat, sear each side of the rouladen until crispy, but not cooked through.  Remove and set aside.
Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaf to the dutch oven.  Add salt and pepper to flavor.  Cook for about 7 minutes, or until soft and the onions are translucent. 
Return the rouladen to the dutch oven, along with the red wine and stock.  Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the oven.  Cook for at least 1 hour, turning about every half hour.  You can certainly cook it for up to 2 hours for a more tender result, especially if you have a tougher or fattier cut of meat. 
Finish by removing the rouladen (and from them the skewers) and blending the remaining vegetables and juice for a sauce.  Serve up with sauerkraut and mustard for dipping.  Guten appetit!

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