by Betty Thompson
When the rouladen arrived on the plate, I assumed they would be similar to my Oma's -- my German grandmother's. I should have known better. This restaurant in Germany was, in fact, Greek, and our rouladen were called "roulaki," a cross betweem the German "rouladen" and the Greek "dolmadakia." And the rolls were Greek to the core, filled with aromatic spinach and feta chese.
Oma always made rouladen with thin slices of beef spread with hot mustard and rolled with chopped onion, lean bacon and a spear of dill pickle. Sometimes she used sauerkraut in place of the pickle. The rolls were fried to a mahogany brown, laid on a bed of sautéed onion, carrot and celery and simmered slowly in red wine.
Rouladen, roulades, rollatine, birds, olives and paupiette are all names for thin slices of meat or fish stuffed with a forcemeat or vegetable mixture, rolled, often wrapped in bacon. They are browned and cooked slowly in stock, wine, beer or cream.
Fillings are varied: sausage, apple, onion, raisins and bread crumbs; mixed ground meats (veal, turkey, pork) seasoned with marjoram, parsley, mustard, egg and cracker crumbs; onion, bacon, parsley and crushed pineapple, as well as the fillings in this month's recipes.
The trick to making successful meat rolls with speed and ease is to choose meat which lends itself to the size and shape desired with the least amount of preparation.
For pork rolls, buy center cut loin chops 1/2 inch thick; bone and trim. Even easier and frequently more economical per pound is a boneless pork whole center loin. Trim off the membrane and cut the loin into 1/2-inch slices.
For beef rolls, the best choice is round steak that has already been trimmed and cut very thin (marketed under the names of breakfast or sandwich steaks). If this cut is not available, buy round steak cut !/2 inch thick. Remove any membrane from the edges before pounding.
Use a flat meat pounder or a rolling pin and pound the meat to 1/8 inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap. Avoid cutting steaks with connective tissue in the middle of the steak as this tends to fall apart when rolling. Trim off any odd bits (they make untidy rolls); chop these and add to the filling. For serving purposes allow two rolls per person.
The easiest skewers for holding the rolls together are stainless steel turkey lacing pins which come in packages of six and are found in most grocery stores. One can also use tooth picks or tie the rolls with string. These are not as easy to remove before serving as the lacing pins.
These rolls look appetizing, can be put together rather quickly, taste delectable and provide an element of intrigue like opening a surprise package.
Ginger Pork Rolls with Apricot Sauce
Tender pork loin slices filled with bits of dried apricot, fresh ginger and coriander are served with apricot sauce.
Trim loin chops and pound between plastic wrap to 1/8 inch thick. Cut off any loose bits of meat and add to the stuffing. Sauté onion and ginger in oil and add remaining ingredients.
Place a mound on each cutlet; roll and fasten with a skewer. Brown in a little oil. Add an additional 1/4 cup Marsala or water to the pan, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
To make sauce, reserve four apricot halves for garnish and purée the rest including the juice. In a saucepan combine the ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer until slightly thickened.
Spoon sauce over the pork rolls. Serve with rice.
Sandwich or breakfast steaks are perfect for these beef rolls stuffed with mushrooms and zesty lemon peel.
Pound steaks to 1/8 inch thick. Cut pieces to approximately 3 by 4 inches. Trim off any loose bits, chop fine and add to the stuffing.
To make the stuffing, sauté mushrooms in oil and add remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
Place a portion of the mixture on each piece of meat. Roll to enclose stuffing and skewer shut. Heat oil and brown rolls on all sides. Remove.
Cut carrots, celery and onions into large pieces. Turn them a few times in the hot fat. Place rolls on top of the vegetables.
Combine stock, tomato and herbs and pour over the vegetables. Cover tightly and simmer for one hour or until meat is tender. Remove beef, take out skewers and keep warm.
Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and serve in a separate dish. Add enough water to the pan to equal one cup. Add sherry, bring to a boil and thicken slightly with cornstarch.
Spoon a little sauce over the beef olives and serve with Duchess potatoes and steamed broccoli.
Meat Rolls, Spinach & Feta
Serve hot or slice cold leftovers to show the decorative center and serve as appetizers.
Pound meat to !/8 inch thick. Trim to 3" X 4". In a frying pan, saute onion, garlic and spinach until onion is tender. Add seasoning and crumbs.
Place a portion on each cutlet, top with a pencil-sized rectangle of cheese. Roll and skewer meat. Roll in flour and brown quickly in a little oil.
Add wine and lemon juice; cover and simmer 15 minutes. Serve on a bed of orzo, a tiny seed shaped pasta that looks like rice.
Boil pasta in water for 10 minutes, drain and rinse. Bring chicken stock to a boil, add pesto and cooked pasta.
Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and let pasta absorb stock. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Betty Thompson teaches cooking classes locally. See Culinary section of this month's Calendar.
The North Coast Journal Table of Contents