Though the term is French in origin, roulades—meat stuffed and rolled—can be found in food cultures worldwide. Germans call them rouladen, and often throw a gherkin into the middle, but the choice of stuffing is all a matter of taste. Pesto is popular, as is cheese, usually of the bleu variety. Lately I’ve been stuffing elk steaks with roasted green chiles and queso fresco or cotija for a southwestern spin on the dish. I’ve also been grilling mine, rather than giving them a traditional braise. Regardless of how they’re made, I’ve yet to meet a roulade I didn’t like. Here are some tips for making them yourself.
1. While tender cuts work just fine, the roulade is a perfect technique for round steaks or those from the shoulder, as these tougher cuts turn soft under the mallet.
2. The flavor profiles are only as limited as your larder. Chopped olives and feta? Sure. Chopped boiled egg, pine nuts, and Parmesan? Hell yes. Peanut butter and jelly? Sounds crazy, but if you made it, I’d eat it. Experiment and have fun.
3. Speaking of, you want to pound your steaks to ¼ inch or even thinner, especially if you’re cooking them via a hot, fast method like the grill. Check out the photo, which shows an elk round steak before and after pounding it out with a meat mallet. As I like to put it, you want the steak so thin it only has one side.
4. Don’t overstuff. Put too much in the roulade and it will roll up into a lumpy mess—then vomit all the stuffing as it cooks. Spreadable fillings can form a thin layer across the meat. Place chunkier ingredients on the quarter to half closest to you so it rolls up in the middle.
5. If your roulades end up too thick when rolled or you just want a cool presentation, consider turning them into pinwheels by securing them with skewers at 1 ½-inch intervals down the length of the roll. Slice the roulades in between each skewer and grill them for a minute or two on each side.