Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christkind & Beef Rouladen

The Tale: Christkind, Bavaria, Germany ~1934
How an angel annually made a special stop in the New Orleans area for two little girls and their Oma.

My very first Christmas Eve.  My big sister Julie is the cute, developed one. I look like a potato. (1989)
Like I said in my last post, Christmas Eve was the most magical part of my childhood.  Growing up, we always celebrated a traditional German Christmas with Oma on the 24th. Because, in Bavaria, Christmas Eve is the biggest part of Weinachten.

We would go to Oma’s and have a German meal with potatoes, red cabbage and beef rouladen.  I literally just drooled on my keyboard.  Most of these foods have a common ingredient: bacon.  Tender, delicious bacon …

But, I digress. (See the succulent, Bavarian recipe for beef filled with bacon below.)

We would fill our bellies and the smell of potatoes and meat would linger throughout a warm house.  My mom and Oma would sip coffee at the kitchen table after dinner, while my dad, sister (Julie) and I would watch a special Christmas episode of a sitcom on TV.  Seriously, how many fictional characters have been visited by three ghosts after midnight?

My mom would suggest that Dad take Julie and me to look for Santa, and the women would meet us after they finished their coffee.  I usually was angry at first. I wanted to know how the show ended.  Would Clarence get his wings? But my tantrum would subside as we drove by houses lit up with twinkly lights.

We would eventually stop near Lake Pontchartrain, or on the Lakefront itself, and Dad would point out different constellations while holding me or Julie — all the while, looking for Santa’s sleigh. One time, Julie and I were convinced we saw it.  

Oma and Mom would eventually meet us. And we’d spend a few more minutes admiring lights and looking for Santa before going back to Oma’s for lebkuchen and marzipan. 

Walking into the warm house, we would notice a cool Christmas air snaking through. The back door was open, and gold packages now sat below the tree. Christkind had arrived.

Christkind, was the angel present at the birth of Jesus, and she is a little girl who brings presents to good Bavarian children on Christmas Eve. She made a special stop in the greater New Orleans area every year for Julie and me. 

She doesn’t come down the chimney, but through a door or window. Oma says she caught Christkind coming into her home in Augsburg as a little girl.

Here is an image I found online of Christkind, the fair-haired little girl angel present at the birth of Jesus.  Some claim she was the angel or star that acted as a guide to the manger. 
When Oma was about nine, and called Lottie, she went for a walk to look at Christmas decorations with her family.  She arrived back at home, feeling the winter air tunnel through the house.  She saw the window, which opened outward, was wide open.  And, she was convinced she saw the white angel floating near the gable of her home.

“To this day, I really don’t know what it was … I assumed it was Christkind,” Oma said with a little laugh.  But then she paused and said something simple and charming, as if she were recalling all of our Christmases with Christkind, “Ja ... That’s a nice time for children.”

The Recipe: Beef Rouladen by Oma
Rouladen is very rich and will easily serve 6 – 8 people.

My mother patiently sat with Oma and went through the steps of making her famous rouladen. She sent me the following recipe.  Oma is in the process of making it now for Christmas Eve, so I will not be attempting it at this time.  I will post an image for now as a placeholder, so you can see what rouladen should look like. But it will be replaced with a picture of Oma’s dish after Christmas.

An image, found online, of rouladen.
Oma's dish will be posted after Christmas.
-       2 ½ pounds beef: top round steak, or sirloin, thinly sliced by butcher to 1/4 inch thickness
-       12 slices of bacon, halved
-       3 large onions, finely chopped
-       Yellow Mustard (Oma actually recommends American)
-       Salt and Pepper
-       2-3 Tablespoons Flour
-       1 1/4 cup Beef Broth, Mushroom Soup or Water
-       3 Tablespoons Bacon Fat and Butter
-       1 large onion, finely chopped
-       ½ cup sour cream, optional

Selecting the beef for a successful roll-up:
“Start with an experienced butcher.  Have the butcher show you his top round, not bottom round steak.” - Oma
The pieces must be large enough to wrap up with the filling: 6-8 inches long by 3-4 inches wide. 
Have the butcher slice the top round thin, like for scaloppini or schnitzel, about ¼  inches thick.
If the butcher shop does not use a tenderizing machine, you will have to pound the meat to 1/8 inch thickness at home. (A good butcher can run your cut of round, or sirloin, through the tenderizer without perforating the meat.)

Fry the bacon until limp not crisp.
Remove bacon from the drippings.
Add chopped onions to the frying pan and carefully sauté until golden brown, and watch closely so they do not burn. (The onions burn easily, and one burned onion ruins the flavor you are seeking for the rouladen, according to Oma.) *If there aren’t enough bacon drippings, add butter to finish the sauté.
Process the onion and bacon together in a finely chopped blend. Don’t over-process!

Filling the Beef:
Lightly flour a clean food preparation board. Lay out a tenderized piece of beef on the board.
Apply a thin spread of yellow mustard to the beef.
Sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
Take 2 tablespoons of filling and gently pour it along one edge, about 1 inch from all of the borders, so it won’t leak after folding.

Folding & Rolling:
You should have a 4 by 8 rectangle of meat, with a line of filling one inch from the edges.
Fold it like a burrito, initially.
Fold over the filling on the left, then on the right, and from the nearest long side. Then start to roll it away from you. 
Some recipes call for tying them up with string. Oma likes to use, plain, un-dyed, round toothpicks to hold her rolls together.

Cooking the Rolls:
In a small bowl, whisk 2-3 tablespoons of flour and 1 ¼ cup broth, and then place in microwave on high for 30 seconds. 
Whisk, and repeat until very hot and smooth BUT DO NOT let it come to a boil.  (If you need more gravy, double this broth mixture.)
Dredge each roll very lightly in flour just before cooking.
Use the sauté pan with the bacon drippings.
Add butter if needed to brown the rouladen.
Brown and turn the rolls on all sides.
Remove the rolls. 
Add the fourth minced onion and sauté until golden brown.
Add rolls and the broth mixture to the sauté pan.
Bring to a boil, then QUICKLY reduce heat and simmer 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Add broth if needed.) Check the rolls to see if they are tender.

1 comment:

  1. Love this! You also forgot to mention that the time we saw the sleigh, Santa was flying over Waffle House. There's an image...


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