Octoberfest means fun all month long
by Alan Reed
Oct 03, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For me, the end of September and beginning of October always heralds the return of one of my favorite celebrations. In Trigg County, it’s the Ham Festival, but in Munich, Germany, it signals the return of Oktoberfest. For this occasion, I decided to spend the week cooking some of my favorite German foods. Some were old favorites, while some, like this rouladen recipe, were brand new.

When I saw Mayor Lyn Bailey on Saturday at Dining with the Dearly Departed, he said, “You’re getting started kind of early, aren’t you son?”

Well, not really Mayor. Oktoberfest, a 16-day festival, celebrates the marriage of Prince (and later King) Ludwig I to Princess Therese. It begins in late September, and lasts usually until the first Sunday in October. In other words, I am actually running late.

Last Friday, Hawkins and I were joined again by Sanci, and I went to work on a new recipe for a type of stuffed beef roll called rouladen. Back in Tampa, I often visited a little biergarten in one of the malls known as Mr. Dunderbak’s to enjoy a plate of rouladen. During Oktoberfest, they offered door prizes. I never won much, but it was fun to sit down for a meal and wish that I was in Germany.

I decided on thin cuts of eye of round to make my rouladen with. I asked the meat cutters at a local store to cut about a pound-and-a-half to about a half-inch thickness. I probably should have asked for a quarter-inch, though the taste did not suffer.

When stuffing the beef, cover the top of the cuts with a layer of mustard. A coarsely-ground German would have worked well, or even brown mustard. I used Dijon mustard, because that was what I had. Once you have mustard on the beef, add a half-strip of bacon, a few dill-pickle chips and a thin slice from half an onion. Roll it up and secure it with toothpicks. I ended up with a dozen or so rolls.

Brown the rolls in the five-quart pan with a bit of oil at the bottom. I should have broken the toothpicks or used string so I could brown each side with minimal fuss. Once the rolls are browned, add a cup-and-a-half of beef broth and a half cup of red wine for a flavorful broth. I love my onions, so I added another quarter of an onion to the pot. For seasoning, I added a half teaspoon of black pepper, a little salt and about a teaspoon of whole mustard seeds. Cover and simmer for two-to-three hours, adding more red wine as needed. It’s done when the beef is close to falling apart.

Once the beef is done, take it out of the pot and use a colander to strain the sauce. It makes an excellent gravy once thickened. To start the gravy off, I made a medium roux with two tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of oil. Cook it in a small pan on medium heat. When it is the color of butterscotch pudding, it’s done. I added the roux to the sauce and stirred it in completely with a heaping teaspoon of beef bouillon granules. The gravy still wasn’t quite thick enough, so I mixed a tablespoon of cornstarch with two tablespoons of water in a separate bowl, making sure to leave no lumps. Upon adding that, stir well, and return to a simmer to thicken. That was when I had lovely, thick gravy to serve over my rouladen.

For a side dish, I made weinkraut, which is what it sounds like- sauerkraut cooked in wine. Start by cooking a quarter cup of diced red onions in two tablespoons of butter. When they are a golden brown, add two cans of plain sauerkraut, slightly drained, to the pot. Add a cup-and-a-half of white wine, a half-cup of beef broth with just a pinch of salt and pepper and simmer for a half hour. Add a teaspoon of brown sugar, and a half teaspoon each of mustard seed, celery seed and caraway seed. For Bavarian sweetness, add a teaspoon of light brown sugar and stir it well. To finish it off, I placed the weinkraut in a square baking pan and baked it in a 325 degree oven for a half hour.

The final dish served that night was some boiled new potatoes. We ate our rouladen with the gravy on top of it and the potatoes. Hawkins’s birthday is on October 3, so Sanci gave him some nice pressies. We watched Real Time with Bill Maher, and enjoyed the comedy stylings of Sarah Silverman. With a best friend’s early birthday, a timely Bavarian festival, and some great rouladen, a good time was had by all. Good eating.
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