Beef with…pickles? Are you kidding me?

Nope. It’s called Rouladen. Or in my case, Rouladen that isn’t actually rolled. And it’s delicious.  One of those wonderful stews that takes what appears to be a contrary list of ingredients and somehow, with a little time, manages to become something wonderful. My Austrian grandmother used to make it. She was one of those cooks who made everything without a recipe, so a couple decades ago one of my aunts stood over her at the stove, night after night for months, writing down everything she did. The recipe I’m giving you is the one from my grandmother’s “cookbook”– a binder of Xeroxed pages that every household in the family has squirreled away in their kitchen. The only difference is I’ve added a little chicken broth instead of the traditional Depression era water.

I made a huge vat of it over Christmas for a family dinner last year—enough for 12 hungry adults because I wanted leftovers — and the eight of us, with eight different dietary preferences, nearly licked the platter clean. No leftovers to speak of. Even my sister, who isn’t much for beef, chowed down. It’s that good.

Rouladen–Unrolled and delicious

  • 1-1/2 lbs beef round or London broil cut in ¼ inch thick strips. Most butchers will cut it for you.  If you’re in a neighborhood where there are German residents, they’ll know what rouladen is. If not, just tell them you’re making brigole, the Italian stew, and you won’t have to bother explaining how you want the meat cut. (Note, I admit here to getting lazy sometimes and just cutting up cheap pot-roasts into slabs of whatever size and thickness my knife makes. I aim for long flat strips but let’s be real, I get chunks. Eh.  So long as you have pieces with long flat sides to brown, it does the job.)
  • 1 regular old yellow onion cut in strips or diced. Whatever floats your boat.
  • Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon or, as I call it, the big grey poop. Probably they won’t be hiring me to do their marketing any time soon.)
  • Dill pickles—not kosher or anything fancy. Just your cheap, supermarket brand dills.
  • No-salt-added chicken broth. Or low salt if you can’t find the former. Or a mixture of beef and chicken broth. Do not add all beef broth or it will taste as if it came from a can. Ick. if you’re feeling v. industrious, make your own beef or chicken broth, but don’t flavor it up with a lot of herbs.
  • Token amounts of pepper, flour, butter, vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil, as it doesn’t have a taste, is cheap where I live, and takes some abuse before it burns).

What to do: Pat the meat dry with paper towels, brush with Dijon mustard on one side and sprinkle with black pepper. Brown meat on both sides in a little vegetable oil. Remove.  Brown onions. Deglaze pan (scrape up brown bits) with a couple cups of broth.

At this stage, you can either dump everything into casserole, slap on the cover and throw it into a 325 oven. Or you can put the beef back in the pan, plop on a lid and leave it slowly simmering on low on the stove top. After 45 minutes or so, slice the pickles in quarters—3 or 4 pickles depending on size—you should have a good handful or two. If you are using low-salt broth instead of the no-salt-added, you can rinse the pickles first to get rid of some of the salt. (Though some salt-lovers will love going full strength salt all the way.) Add pickles to sauce. Continue cooking for another 30-45 minutes or until beef is tender.

The gravy will be thin. You can thicken it.  Mix 2 tbs of soft butter with 2tbs of flour in a bowl until you have mush. Put a quarter cup of gravy into a cup or bowl and mix in the flour/butter mixture until you have a paste. Stir this back into the stew and bring the stew back to a simmer.

Serve with rice, dumplings or noodles. Green beans and carrots go well with this. The recipe can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled. (As I did last Christmas).  You can also brown up up a beef bone and throw it in to the broth for flavoring.

I am not kidding, and I can’t explain why it is the case, but this is to die for. (Note, I stole a rouladen-like picture off the internet because I never think to take pictures while I’m cooking.)

This is part of a holiday recipe blog hop! Hop here to see more holiday recipes from authors who should be writing their next book but are tinkering in the kitchen instead!

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10 responses to “Beef with…pickles? Are you kidding me?

  1. Liz, thank you for this recipe. My mother was a wonderful cook, and used to make delicious rouladen, but I never learned how. I am going to treat my family to this at Christmas. We are of German descent on both sides so this should make our DNA stand up and sing carols.

    • Hi Olaf,

      I promise, it’s awesome. I’m going to go check out your recipe to see how it’s done differently in Hamburg…

      Cheers from California!
      –Liz

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