Wednesday, January 2, 2013

European Travels and Scotch Rolls

Scotch Rolls
The American Woman’s Cookbook

Take four or five pounds of the flank of beef, wash and dry with a towel, spread on the board and dredge with salt and pepper. Make a dressing of a quart of breadcrumbs, moistened with milk or water, and season with two tablespoonfuls of powdered sage, and pepper and salt to taste, mix all well together and spread evenly over the meat. Roll up and tie with twine, put in a pan with a pint of water and bake for two or three hours, rolling over often so as to cook even on all sides.

I was very excited to make Scotch Rolls because I am fairly certain I ate them while visiting Scotland in 2002 and they made an impression. I was on the classic mid-college backpacking trip during the summer between my sophomore and junior years. I convinced my friends Amy and Alex to join me on a five week crazy trip across 6 countries in Europe. Our second to last stop was to visit Scotland.

Alex’s family is Scottish and we were beyond lucky to stay with his family on the Isle of Mull. We also visited Benbecula, Stornoway, and Glasgow but Mull will always be remembered fondly for the food. Yes, I know that sounds weird considering one of Scotland’s most famous culinary achievements is haggis and they have a fondness for deep frying anything, but you have to trust me, they have some really great food. On our last day on Mull there was a large family dinner hosted by Alex’s aunt and uncle. Amy and I still reminisce about how wonderfully delicious that meal was. The Scotch Rolls Alex’s aunt made were tender, savory, sweet and just melt in your mouth good. She added dried apricots to the dressing (stuffing) and the sauce was a thick gravy with (I think) caramelized onions. 

We asked her after the meal how she made the dish and would she give us the recipe, but she is one of those cooks that just knows how to make delicious things, no recipe needed. I have maybe 10 things I can just make, no recipe needed because they're super easy or I’ve got the basic recipe memorized. I occasionally can manage to just create a new meal, using inspiration from cooking shows and blogs. I aspire to become the kind of cook Alex’s aunt is; to have that intuition and understanding of basic cooking principles (This book I got from my sister for Christmas should help). Amy and I tried in vain to recreate the dish when we got home, but it just wasn’t the same. Maybe we got the proportions wrong or used the wrong cut of meat, but I think it is also pretty likely that no Scotch Roll will ever live up to the Scotch Roll of Mull.

When I saw the Scotch Roll recipe in the American Woman's Cookbook I knew I’d have to make them, but 4-5 pounds of meat is a lot for two people. Fortunately with Christmas fast approaching I would soon have a larger group to cook for. My family gathers every year for a few days together in Tahoe for Christmas. I asked/ informed my mom that I would be cooking dinner one night. Since the original recipe is so basic I decided to make two different versions, so that I could try and remake the “Mull Rolls” but still test out the 100 year old recipe. This meant that instead of making one large roll I would make smaller individual rolls, similar to German Rouladen.

Our neighbors ended up also joining us for dinner, which added some extra stress since I would have felt really terrible feeding people (other than my family) potentially inedible food. Luckily, I was pretty happy with the results, but once again there is room for improvement. Both the original recipe and my modified version were tasty since the dressing absorbed lots of flavor from the meat. I’m partial to my version, but the 100 year old recipe stood the test of time.

I braised the rolls for just over 2.5 hours and the meat did become tender, but it was pretty dry. I made sure to turn them every 20 minutes, but either I didn’t put enough water in the pan, or there was no hope for the cut I bought. The Safeway in Truckee was super busy since it was 2 days before Christmas, so I had to make due with thin cut round steak, instead of the flank steak the recipe calls for. After some googling I discovered the round steak is often used to make jerky...

My recommendations for next time are:
  1. Buy better meat
  2. Tie or secure with a toothpick all the rolls (I got lazy and some of the rolls ended up not so roll-like)
  3. Tenderize the meat, to reduce the cooking time
  4. Bake in a covered dish

Scotch Roll of Mull

adapted from The American Woman's Cookbook

4 pounds of flank steak*
4 cups of fresh breadcrumbs (1” pieces or smaller)
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of milk
3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
3 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons salt and additional for sprinkling on meat
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup finely diced dried apricots**
½ cup red wine (nothing too sweet)
toothpicks or butcher’s string
* You can use another cut of beef, just make sure it’s thinly sliced and the pieces are at least 3-4” long and wide and pay attention to the grain of the meat so that when the roll is cut you’ll be cutting against the grain.
** Feel free to skip if you want to keep completely savory or substitute with currants or dried cherries, figs, apples, pears, etc...)
Preheat oven to 400° F. Using a meat tenderizer, pound each piece on both sides Try to get the meat to be about ½ inch thick. Sprinkle both sides generously with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sautépan and add 1 cup onions, celery and breadcrumbs. Sauté for 5-10 minutes until onions are soft and breadcrumbs are starting to turn golden on the edges, making sure to stir very often. Place onion-breadcrumb mixture into a large bowl and toss with salt, sage and apricots; then moistened with the milk. The mixture should bind together a bit, but not be mushy.
For the assembly place a small amount of the dressing in the middle along the edge of each piece of meat. Roll up and secure with a toothpick or tie with string. Once all the rolls are ready  heat the oil in the same pan you used for the breadcrumbs. Brown rolls on all sides and then place them in a covered baking dish (like a dutch oven) and fill with hot water so that the rolls are about a quarter-way submerged. Braise for at least 1 hour and up to 3, making sure to turn the rolls every 20 minutes.
While the beef is braising take that same pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and sauté the remaining onions over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the wine and saute until almost all the liquid is gone, scraping any yummy beefy bits that got left in the pan.
When the beef is done remove from the liquid and place on a platter to rest, cover with foil. Spoon some of the liquid from the baking dish in with the sauteed onions and add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon some of the sauce over the rolls and serve the rest with the meal.

Sorry this photo is so terrible!
I served the Scotch Rolls along with a simple cranberry sauce and yorkshire pudding that we made in a large baking dish and then sliced to into wide noodles. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo since I didn’t want to delay dinner for our guests, or be weird and take pictures at the table like an overzealous yelper. I did manage to get one the next day, while I had the leftovers for lunch, but the yorkshire pudding was all gone and instead I had a bit of the excess stuffing on the side.

Once again these did not come close to my memory of the “Mull Rolls”, so I guess I will just have to try again, maybe the next time Amy is in town :)

Next Up: Madam Carvill’s Vegetable Soup

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to also say Happy New Year! I hope you have a wonderful and delicious 2013 :)