My Mom (rest her soul) was a fantastic cook. Sure, she got sidetracked into some of the weirdness in the 60’s – Porcupine Balls, Tuna Casserole and Shake and Bake but later really found her “groove.” These German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy were a family favorite – made on afternoons when Mom cooked for the sheer joy of it. There is no doubt that making German Beef Rouladen is a bit of work and a labor of love. I keep meaning to make these Rouladen again – it so needs better photos! Don’t judge on the looks, please because they are far more attractive than shown here!
At some point, probably not long before she passed away, Mom must have cleaned out her recipe box. Her illness really changed the way she cooked and a lot of the old recipes she made when we were growing up were no longer there. Luckily, over the years, I had asked for a lot of her recipes and this German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy was one of those.
About German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy:
It’s funny but I didn’t find any trace of this recipe in my Grandma’s recipe box, either, but it seems pretty clear that this was probably passed on down the German side of the family. My Mom’s Dad, Grandpa Herman was first generation here, born in 1898. Back then, though, people didn’t make so many recipes and a lot of them weren’t written down – or at least in my family so many of the recipes are only lists of ingredients, without amounts and instruction. I suspect if you only made a few recipes, it was a bit easier to remember them.
What I find curious about the German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy is that it is so different from most of the German Beef Rouladen recipes I’ve seen – recipes that have bacon and pickles rolled inside. Instead, these rouladen are filled with a marvelous, herby breadcrumb stuffing and served with a deeply flavored mushroom gravy.
Most of those Rouladen stuffed with the bacon and pickles seem to hail from the Black Forest area. My great grandparents came from the area around Gerbach, Germany, which would have been in Bavaria. I guess it may always be a bit of mystery how our recipe is so different from so many others. I’m glad it is though! This recipe is absolutely wonderful and unlike some heritage recipes, you don’t have to have a special affection or affinity for the recipe to love it, if you know what I mean!
Making German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy:
When you make German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy you’re going to take a dense, prone to be tough and dry cut of meat (I usually use something from the round but top sirloin is even better) slice it thinly, pound it to tenderize it and then braise it slowly until it is just about spoon tender. That literally transforms any old cheap cut of meat into something moist, tender and appealing. If you love Chicken Fried Steak, Old-Fashioned Swiss Steak, or Swiss Steak with Mushroom Gravy, they all use this same method of slicing and tenderizing the meat.
You’re going to want to work with a roast of some sort, and if your butcher will do it for you, have it sliced, against the grain, into slices about 3/8ths of an inch thick. I have a small, cheap kitchen slicer and I don’t use it often but I love it for so many things (French Onion Soup, my own Lunch Meat). Getting the right slice makes it so much easier to pound out. I’ve shown you some pics at the bottom of the page.
The filling has a lot of herbs – it is intense in flavor, and that flavor transfers through to the whole roll. The nutmeg can easily hijack the flavor, so use just the tiniest pinch if using store bought, and only the slightest scrape if grating your own. I prefer to add a pinch of allspice, instead, although that’s another strong flavor. The recipe (it’s an old one) originally called for suet; feel free, as I do, to substitute chopped bacon. Brown the mushrooms well, literally till they are just about dry and darkly colored; they are really the basis for the flavor of the gravy.
Saving Money on German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy:
While I usually serve German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy with mashed potatoes (the Irish side coming out?) and a green vegetable, if I were ambitious, I think I would tempted to make a potato dumpling or home-made egg noodles, instead. I think the 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!
The number of Rouladen this recipe makes depends on the shape of the meat as well as how it’s carved. If you can’t get the meat sliced for you or don’t have a slicer, make sure your knife is good and sharp. I have difficulty get the full amount of slices when I cut by hand. I’d only count on six servings if serving to small children as well as adults.
German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy
- 4 ounces fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 ounces suet (substitute chopped, cooked bacon)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 2 eggs
- tiny pinch nutmeg (or allspice)
- salt and pepper
- wine, water or stock, to moisten
- 2 pounds top sirloin or bottom round
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 heaping tablespoon flour, mixed with a little water to form a slurry
Mix together bread crumbs, bacon or suet, parsley, marjoram, lemon peel, eggs, nutmeg or allspice, and salt & pepper. I generally use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Moisten with wine, stock or water until mixture holds together. Set aside.
While preparing beef (below) melt two tablespoons butter in a large skillet or oven proof pan. Add onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring now and then, until onions are softened and mushrooms are dark and flavorful. If the mushrooms appear too dry as they cook, add water by the tablespoon. The meat will be browned in the same pan, so remove if more room is needed.
To prepare beef, cut into slices about 3/8ths of an inch thick. Best if done with a slicer, by a butcher or carefully with a very sharp knife. Depending on the cutting method, there should be about 10 to 12 slices. Gently pound each out to a square of about 4 by 3 1/2 inches.
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. Divide any excess mixture among the rolls.
Spread the mixture across each slice of beef, leaving a space on the end of about 1/2 inch. It’s best to choose a short, straight edge to leave the space at. Roll towards that end. May be tied or closed with a toothpick if desired, but this is not necessary if careful with turning the rolls while browning.
Add more butter to the skillet and heat. Place rolls seam side down and quickly saute until lightly browned. Turn and brown the top side. Turn again so the seam is on the bottom. Add mushroom/onion mixture back in if it has been removed, add beef broth.
Bring to a simmer, cover tightly and cook on stove-top at a bare simmer 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 rolls about 15 minutes before, or cook longer if necessary.
Remove rolls from the sauce, make a slurry with the flour and water and stir into the sauce. Bring to a boil and cook until desired consistency. If the sauce looks oily, a bit more flour should be added; it should have a nice sheen, though, and is best served on the thinner side.
Place rolls on a platter and pour sauce over. Garnish with parsley.
Note: The recipe originally called for thickening the gravy with two tablespoons of butter kneaded with two tablespoons of flour. Since the recipe already contains quite a bit of butter, I use a simple slurry, instead.
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%