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Entertaining with a delicious dinner is especially fun at this time of year. The nights are long and cold (even in Southern California, where I live). It's easy to feel like you're hunkered down in your home until spring arrives. So welcoming guests, or receiving an invitation to dinner, can feel like a special treat.
Throwing a winter dinner party doesn't have to be complicated or especially difficult, either. After all, the best main courses for this time of year are robust, slowly simmered dishes that bring warmth and comfort with every bite. Fortunately, such dishes mostly cook themselves, giving you a little extra time to add a few simple flourishes that will make them memorable for your guests.
Take my traditional Austrian-style recipe for Beef Rouladen with Brunoise Vegetables and Red Wine. Basically, it's a braised beef bottom round, a reasonably priced cut that's full of flavor and becomes especially tender through gentle, moist cooking. What makes it special is that you first flatten the beef and then stuff it, roll it up (source of the name rouladen), and tie it with kitchen string before you brown it and braise it. The brunoise, French for diced vegetables, adds extra flavor to the dish, becoming part of both the filling and a simple sauce you prepare quickly just after slicing the roll.
Let me share one tip to make the preparation even easier: Ask the butcher to flatten the meat for you. Since some such cuts can be unevenly shaped, you could suggest that the beef be first butterflied -- cut horizontally part way through from its wider edge, and then opened up like a book to a more uniform thickness before pounding. If your butcher is too busy, the process is fairly simple if you have a sharp knife and a good meat pounder.
Easy though it is to prepare, when you serve it the rouladen makes a big impact with its spirals of beef and colorful filling. So it isn't really necessary for the rest of the menu to be elaborate. Add a simple sauteed or steamed green vegetable, mashed potatoes or rice pilaf, a salad of winter greens to start, and a light dessert like fruit sorbet or compote, and you and your guests alike will feel like you've dined in grand style.
Beef Rouladen Recipe with Brunoise Vegetables and Red Wine
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
Beef Rouladen Recipe with Brunoise Vegetables Ingredients
1-1/2 pounds whole piece beef bottom round, trimmed
3 yellow onions, diced
3 large organic carrots, diced
3 stalks organic celery, diced
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound ground organic chicken
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 cage-free egg, beaten
4 medium dill pickles
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups dry red wine
1 cup Port
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup organic beef broth
2 cups organic chicken broth, plus extra if needed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, stems removed, leaves chopped
Beef Rouladen Recipe with Brunoise Vegetables Dorections
Put the beef on a clean work surface. With a meat pounder, pound the meat to a uniform thickness of 1/4 inch. (If the meat is uneven, butterfly it first, cutting it partway through from its thicker side and then opening it like a book.)
In a mixing bowl, toss together the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Put half of the mixture in another bowl and add the ground chicken, breadcrumbs, and egg. Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Season the top of the beef with salt and pepper. Spread the chicken mixture evenly on top and add the pickles in a line directly down the middle. Carefully roll up the beef into a tight cylinder, taking care not to squeeze the chicken filling out the sides. Season the outside with salt and pepper. With 5 or 6 pieces of butcher's or kitchen string, tightly tie the roll at regular intervals to hold it together.
Over high heat, heat a deep saute pan large enough to hold the beef roll. Add the oil and, when it is very hot, flowing freely and shimmering slightly, carefully add the beef roll and sear until evenly dark brown, turning every few minutes, about 12 minutes total. Remove the roll to a platter, covering with foil.
Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining vegetable mixture. Saute over high heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and Port and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Add the thyme.
Return the beef to the pan, reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer, cover the pan with its lid or foil, and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover, add the beef and chicken broths, and bring the liquid back to a boil. Carefully turn the roll so that its other side is submerged. Adjust the heat to medium, maintaining a brisk simmer. Cook until the internal temperature of the roll registers at least 165 degrees F. an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center (any lower and the chicken filling won't be fully cooked), at least 10 minutes. If too much liquid evaporates, add a little more broth.
Remove the meat to a cutting board, cover with foil, and leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, keep the liquid warm over low heat in the covered pan.
Snip the strings from the roll. With a sharp knife, cut crosswise into slices 1/2 inch thick, transferring them to a serving platter. Add the butter to the cooking juices and vegetables in the pan and swirl until melted. Spoon this sauce over the slices, garnish with parsley, and serve.
Rouladen, Beef Rouladen, Austrian
Wofgang Puck's Beef Rouladen Recipe with Brunoise Vegetables and Red Wine
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