Back in the 40s and 50s, when my German mother-in-law (aka “Oma”) was a young girl in Northern German, rouladen was her family’s traditional Christmas dinner. Now, this classic meal is a common Sunday supper all over Germany, but back then, when money was tight, Rouladen was a special treat served only once a year.
What is Rouladen? Chuck roast is wrapped around bacon, onion and spices then simmered in pan gravy for hours until it becomes tender and flavorful. This recipe has been passed down through Oma’s family for generations. Oma learned it from her late mother who learned it from hers, etc. etc. Since Oma has been visiting, we decided to capture this recipe for our official family record, but you can enjoy it as well.
So I present to you Oma’s Old-Fashioned Rouladen.
Oma’s Old-Fashioned Rouladen
- 10 strips of chuck roast cut thin, approximately 3 3/4 pounds
- 15-20 strips of bacon
- yellow mustard
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 large onion, cut in half and sliced very thin
- vegetable oil
- water, divided
- sour cream, optional
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour (or cornstarch for a gluten-free option)
Take a strip of chuck roast. It should be about 1/4 inch thick. If it is too thick, pound it down to the correct thickness. Spread the meat with a thin layer of mustard, then sprinkle with pepper and salt (go easy on the salt). Put a strip or two of bacon on the meat. This depends on how wide your meat is. You don’t want the bacon to stick out the side. Cover that with a thin layer of sliced onions.
Starting at the small end, roll the meat with it’s contents into a tight cylinder. Using kitchen twine (or in Oma’s case, sewing thread), tie this bundle tightly. See my first ever blog video for a demonstration of Oma’s rolling technique. This is cinema verite, so don’t expect high production value You may notice that on the video, Oma uses only one strip of bacon because the piece of meat is not as wide as the meat pictured above. Also, she puts on a little too much salt (nobody is perfect, not even Oma). Put about half the amount she used on this particular piece.
Put about 2-3 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a heavy sauté pan. When the oil is hot, add the rouladen, and cook, turning as necessary, until it is very brown on all sides. This takes about 22-28 minutes. When the meat is very very brown all over, place them in a large dutch oven.
Heat about 2 cups of water in small sauce pan until hot. Pour the water into the sauté pan that you used to brown the rouladen and scrape up the drippings. Eventually, this will be the gravy. Pour this sauce over the meat in the dutch oven. If you didn’t get everything from the pan, add a little more water, scrape again and pour that over the meat. Oma says this is very important. Add enough water so that it covers about 2/3 of the meat like in the photo.
Bring to a boil on the stove top, then reduce heat, cover and simmer very low for 1 1/2 hours. After the meat is tender, remove it to a plate covered with foil to stay warm.
Whisk together 1/4 cups flour and 1/4 cup water until smooth. This mixture will be the consistency of cream. Turn the heat off on the pot and add about 1/2 this mixture to the pan juices whisking until it is incorporated. Then turn the heat back on and simmer until it thickens. Just before serving, mix in approximately 1/4 cup of sour cream (optional). Taste for seasoning.
Cut the string off the rouladen and place one on each plate. Cover with a generous portion of the gravy. Serve with potatoes or pasta and something that once grew in the ground. I choose broccoli, but Oma prefers to serve with corn.
Another delicious meal! Thanks Oma!