My Mom (rest her soul) was a fantastic cook. Sure, she got sidetracked into the weirdness in the ’60s, Porcupine Balls, Tuna Casserole and Shake and Bake, but later found her “groove.” These German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy were a family favorite and a labor of love. Believe me, I know, having made them multiple times. Fair warning, this is one of those heritage recipes you’re going to want to make when you’ve got a bit of time to piddle around in the kitchen, especially the first time. No worries, I’ll lead you through it. If you’re a cooking pro, feel free to jump to the recipe; this is a long post.
At some point, probably not long before she passed away, Mom cleaned out her recipe box. She passed away from a long illness and it changed the way she lived and the way she cooked. I guess she must have thought she’d never make so many of the dishes in her recipe box again and didn’ think about us kids and our emotional connection to her through the food she made. Luckily, over the years, I had asked for a lot of her recipes and German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy is one of them.
About German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy:
There was no trace of German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy in Grandma’s recipe box, either, but it seems pretty clear that this was passed on down the German side of the family. My Mom’s Dad, Grandpa Herman was first generation here, born in 1898 and his parents came to the States in the 1880s. Back in the day, people didn’t make a wide variety of food, and many recipes weren’t written down. I’m guessing if you only made a few things, they were easier to remember!
I’ve always been curious about German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy because it’s so much different from other German Rouladen recipes I’ve seen. I usually see German Rouladen stuffed with bacon and pickle and it seems many of those recipes originated in the Black Forest area. These German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy are filled with a marvelous, herby breadcrumb stuffing and served with an incredible deeply flavored mushroom gravy.
The German side of my family came from around Gerbach, Germany, which would have been in Bavaria, I think. If you’re German or German American and recognize Rouladen like this, I’d love to solve the mystery of our family’s Rouladen. I’m glad ours IS different, though; German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy is so fantastic and unlike some heritage recipes, you don’t have to have a special affection or affinity for the dish to fall in love.
Preparing the Beef for German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy:
When you make German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy you’ll be taking a dense, prone to be tough and dry cut of meat (something from the round, but top sirloin is better) slice it thinly, pound to tenderize it, then braise it slowly until it’s spoon tender. The method utterly transforms a cheap cut of meat. If you love Old-Fashioned Swiss Steak or Swiss Steak with Mushroom Gravy, this same method is used.
If your butcher will slice your roast, have him/her remove any thick fat cap and slice against the grain into a thickness just a hair more than 1/4″ inch which is too thin and a bit less than 3/8″ which is too thick. I hesitate to say 5/16ths because it sounds so persnickety, but that’s perfect. Getting the right thickness makes it so much easier to pound out.
I gotta give a shout out to my small, cheap Kitchen Slicer. It’s indispensable for this as well as Chicken Fried Steak, French Onion Soup, Guinness & Onion Soup, French Dips or Panera Steak Paninis from my 30 Minute Instant Pot Roast, and my Iowa Pork Tenderloin along with the Swiss Steaks, above. And that’s not mentioning how easy it is to slice homemade bread or turn my leftover ham & turkey into lunch meat or slice large batches of just about anything for a party, like cheese, smoked sausages or tomatoes. Think about getting one if these kind of things are in your wheelhouse.
Buying the beef will be a judgment call. If you find a pretty squarish two-pound roast, great! Slice it as directed. If a butcher does it or you use a slicer, you’re going to get 10 to 12 slices; by hand, more like 8 to 10. Roasts vary so much in size & shape; you can’t always count on finding a two-pound roast. If I have a larger roast, my solution is to slice the whole roast, pound it out, trim so I have ten to 12 slices the right size for the German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy. The rest I just put in a Ziploc and freeze for when I want to make something like the Chicken Fried Steak or either of the Swiss Steak recipes, above. You could just make more Rouladen but then you’d have to start tinkering with all the other components of the recipe.
The Stuffing for German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy:
The recipe (it’s an old one) originally called for suet in the stuffing; feel free, as I do, to substitute a little bit of chopped bacon; cook until mostly rendered but not “crisp” and use the bacon and the drippings. I do because I’m American and love bacon in everything, lol! I think the bit of wine in the stuffing might have been my Mom’s addition; see, each generation tweaks a bit! You can moisten with stock or water but the wine is killer & I think “makes” the dish.
Notice that the stuffing has fresh, not toasted breadcrumbs. Just grind a few slices of bread by pulsing in your food processor or blender or grate it on the large holes of a box grater if you don’t have either. For how much bread, figure out how many ounces are in your loaf and then divide by the number of slices. Multiply that amount by four. Ya, a little more math!
The stuffing is intense in herby flavor, and that flavor transfers through to the whole roll. The nutmeg can easily hijack things so use just the tiniest pinch if using store bought and the slightest scrape if grating your own. I like allspice a lot more than the nutmeg, another slight changeup.
Making German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy:
Once that meat is pounded out, you’re over the worse! Sprinkle both sides with a bit of salt and pepper (again, not in the original recipe) then dole out a good tablespoon of the stuffing on each piece of meat; it’s easy then to go back a second time and dole out any that’s left. When spreading the stuffing, leave a free edge on the straightest narrow side of the piece of beef. Roll from the pointy side if there is one, towards the straightest side (which is the edge free of filling) so when you are done rolling you have meat on meat with no stuffing poking out. You’ll have a better seal. Traditionally tied with string, it’s easier to use toothpicks to secure the seam on the Rouladen.
Brown the mushrooms well, literally till they are just about dry and darkly colored, then add in the onions and cook until tender. Be careful not to burn all the lovely fond (the brown build-up) on the bottom of the pan. When softened, remove the mushrooms and onions, add in more butter and then add in the Rouladen, seam side down. You’ll need to work in batches on the Rouladen.
Watch the pan carefully adjusting heat as needed, so the fond doesn’t burn. Pay most attention to browning the top and sides of the Rouladen; the bottom, where the seam is, doesn’t matter so much. If you have gone too far with your heat and you think you are in danger of burning the fond, there’s a “save.” Remove the Rouladen and toss in a cup of the beef broth, scrape up all the stuff on the bottom and save all that liquid. Add a bit more butter to the pan and finish off the Rouladen. When all the Rouladen is browned, add the rest of the beef stock along with the “rescue” liquid. Really scrape up the bottom of the pan when you add the broth. Then in go the mushrooms & onions, the Rouladen are nestled along with any juices, the pan is lidded and braised in the oven or on the stove. I really prefer using the oven.
There is one more change to the original heritage recipe. It calls for thickening with a Beurre Manie, flour and butter kneaded together. I wanted a little more gravy, so use a slurry, instead. To make the slurry, add a heaping tablespoon of flour to a measuring cup, then stirring so it doesn’t clump, slowly add about 3/4’s to a cup of broth. That’s a judgment call, too, and depends on how much the mushroom/onion/broth has reduced and how much gravy you want. You’ll stir that into the simmering mushroom and onion mixture after the Rouladen are cooked and removed from the pan to the serving dish.
Saving Money on German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy:
Of course, shop well for your beef! The more inexpensive cuts like the round are usually on sale during the fall when the beef go to market in droves or in December and January. The winter holidays call for an increase in all the expensive roasts for the holiday tables, and the producers and grocers need to move the cheaper cuts, too. On sale, I can find cheap roasts like this on special, as low as $2.50 a pound. That’s in 2019 when I updated this post and photos. In the summer, more of these cuts are used for ground beef, so the sales become few and far between.
It’s going to be a coincidence if you find your mushrooms on sale at the same time as the beef, at the same time as the stock, etc. Buy that beef, chuck it in your freezer, and yes, you should have a freezer. Stock up on the stock during the winter holiday sales when they’re lower than at Aldi or your Buyer’s Club and make this when the mushrooms are on sale. They’re generally half price on sale. You can literally put a meal like this on the table for less than half the cost, closer to a third of the cost, just by using sales priced ingredients.
Look for inexpensive sides, which isn’t hard for a meal like this. Mashed Potatoes (that’s my Irish side coming out, Herma’s wife, Irene, my Grandma), plain boiled potatoes or noodles, especially Homemade Egg Noodles, are marvelous. Next time I make these, I’ll be heading over to see Marta at Plate du Jour so I can make her Potato Dumplings. If I can wait that long to try her recipe! Think about a simple green vegetable and maybe some beets or cabbage, too. I’d only count on six servings if serving to a group with a couple of children or a group of adults with a couple of lighter eaters; most people will want more than one roll, and that’s why it’s nice to have some incredible sides.
German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy
- 4 ounces fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 ounces suet (substitute 3 slices bacon, cook until rendered but not crisp. in small pieces)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- small pinch nutmeg or a good pinch of allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or two taste
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- wine, water or stock, to moisten dressing, white wine preferred
- 2 pounds top sirloin or bottom round, sliced about 5/16″ and pounded to tenderize to about 1/4″ thick
- additional salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 8 ounces mushrooms, finely diced
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 3 cups beef stock, divided, 2 cups for braising, the rest for the gravy
- 1 heaping tablespoon flour, mixed with 3/4’s or a cup of the beef stock, this is part of the three cups, above, for the gravy
Mix together bread crumbs, bacon and drippings or suet, parsley, marjoram, lemon peel, nutmeg or allspice, and salt & pepper. Add eggs and toss together. Moisten with wine, stock or water until mixture holds together. Set aside.
While preparing beef, melt two tablespoons butter in a large ovenproof skillet or pan. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring now and then, until mushrooms are dark and flavorful. If the mushrooms appear too dry as they cook, add water by the tablespoon. Add the onions and continue to cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and buttery. Remove onions and mushrooms and set aside.
To prepare beef, see text, above, and photos. Trim the beef, if necessary to roughly rectangular shapes. This won’t be perfect, and the shapes will be somewhat irregular, but shoot for about 4 to 5 inches long and about 3 1/2 to 4 inches across. With some pieces, a little additional pounding can help shape the beef.
Salt and pepper beef if desired then spread with about a tablespoon of the bread crumb mixture. Since the number of slices may vary, it may be easiest to lay out all the beef, then add a tablespoon to each slice. Then divide any excess mixture among the slices. Spread the mixture across each slice of beef, leaving a space on the shortest and straightest edge of about 1/2 inch. Roll from the opposite edge towards the edge that has no stuffing. Rouladen may be tied or held closed with a toothpick.
Add the remaining two tablespoons butter to the skillet and heat. Place rolls seam side down and quickly saute until lightly browned. Turn and brown the top side. Turn two more times to brown the sides. Watch that the fond on the bottom of the pan isn’t burning. (See German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy) . Remove the Rouladen from the skillet, discard excess butter and deglaze the skillet with the beef stock, scraping up any brown fond on the bottom of the pan. Return the mushroom/onion mixture to the pan and nestle the Rouladen back in, seam side down. If there are any juices released by the Rouladen as they sat, add that to the skillet as well.
Bring skillet and contents to a simmer, cover tightly and cook on stove-top at the barest of simmers or in the oven at 325 degrees for about an hour and a half. Remove when tender. Because of variances in heat level, check the Rouladen about 15 minutes before the time is up, or if not yet tender at the hour and a half, continue to cook until it is. When tender, spoon a little bit of the liquid part of the mushroom broth mixture over each Rouladen to moisten, then remove the Rouladen to a serving platter. Tent with foil to keep warm while preparing gravy.
If cooking on the stovetop, turn the heat up to bring the onions/mushroom broth mixture to a brisk simmer. If cooked in the oven, put skillet on a burner and do the same. In a measuring cup, add a heaping tablespoon of flour, then while stirring, add stock to form a cohesive mixture. Drizzle the flour-stock slurry into the skillet, whisking vigorously and simmer until desired consistency is reached. The resulting gravy should be on the thin side with a nice sheen; if it appears oily, a little more flour mixed with a small amount of liquid may be added. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Spoon some of the gravy over the Rouladen and pass the rest. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Note: The recipe originally called for thickening the gravy with two tablespoons of butter kneaded with two tablespoons of flour.
Nutrition: based on 6 servings, 2 rolls each: calories 441, tot fat 24g; sat fat 13g, chol 246mg; sod 462mg; pot 681mg; car 11g; fib 2g; sug 3g; prot 47g; vit a 20%; vit c 15%; calc 4%; iron 8%
I’ll be sharing German Beef Rouladen, Mushroom Gravy, since the recipe, photos and text have been upgraded recently, at Fiesta Friday #261 co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Julianna @ Foodie on Board. Stop by and visit Fiesta Friday and see what wonderful recipes have been posted this week.