Monday, January 24, 2011

Traditional Polish Beef Roulades--Foreign Guests' Favorites

This simple dish is a mainstay of Polish cuisine. Almost every reputable restaurant has it on its menu and every Polish hostess can make it, and often serves it for weekend dinners. Beef roulades are called "zrazy" in Polish and are made of onion, cucumber pickles, and strips of bacon wrapped in slices of beef. They are fried until brown all around and cooked in a sauce that is thickened with flour and cream and often spiced with dried porcini.

Whenever foreigners visiting Poland ask about the "must" of Polish cuisine, beef roulades are probably one of the first items to be named. If they are made properly and served with some of the special noodles, they are almost always very well-remembered by our foreign guests.

I heard that a similar dish is also known in German cuisine, but there is a difference in the preparation of the sauce and in the stuffing. We stuff our roulades with cucumbers pickled in brine rather than cornichons. I would not like to argue who makes better beef roulades but my German cousin-in-law claims that the Polish ones are the best.

Beef roulades can be served with potatoes or rice, but they taste absolutely best when they are accompanied by noodles or dumplings--yogurt dumplings, egg noodles, plain spaetzle, or traditional Polish smooth potato dumplings, which are featured in my previous post. Delicate dumplings and noodles bring out the savory flavor of the fried, almost dark brown, beef roulades.

As many red meats in Poland, they are traditionally served with red cabbage salad or beet salad. The advantage of this dish over many others is that beef roulades can be made at least a day ahead. When they are fully cooked, and stay overnight in their own sauce, they taste even better when you serve them reheated on the next day.

Beef Roulades
(Serves four)

8 slices round steak, about 1/2 inch thick,
8 strips smoked bacon,
one medium onion cut in 8 half-quarters,
2 cucumbers in brine, or baby dills,
8 pieces of European whole wheat bread (optional),
salt and pepper,
4 tbsp vegetable oil,
1 tsp flour,
1/2 cup sour cream.

1. Pound beef steaks until they are 1/8 inch thick, salt and pepper on both sides.
2. Place bacon, cucumber, and onion (and bread) on each piece of beef.

3. Roll up the beef slices and secure them with wooden toothpicks, or wrap them with threads.
4. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the beef roulades until brown on each side.
5. Cover with water and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the meat becomes soft.
6. Mix flour with sour cream, add a little bit of sauce from the pot and pour the whole mixture over the roulades. Let it all cook for another 20 minutes.

Serve with yogurt dumplings, smooth potato dumplings, or any kind of noodles.

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