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German legend brings magic to the Christmas Eve landscape. On this holiday, according to various websites, rivers turn to wine, animals speak to each other and the mountains open to reveal precious gems. Even in the depths of a wintry day, blossoms on the trees are filled with fruit.
There is one condition: only the pure of heart can be a part of this magic.
Whatever your holiday traditions may be, they are more than likely linked with particular recipes, the German culture being no exception.
Much traditional German holiday food has been borrowed by the rest of us. Christmas goose, stollen, mulled wine and star-shaped cinnamon cookies are a few German holiday treats that have graced my table in Christmas celebrations.
I’ve been a part of many German Christmas celebrations in Ann Arbor, and one favorite dish, rouladen, was always the centerpiece. There are many nuances to the preparation of rouladen, but there are commonalities to most recipes. The cook spreads thin slices of beef with mustard and horseradish, arranges onions, bacon and pickle over them, rolls them, then braises the rolls in broth or wine until they are very tender. A gravy is made with the pan drippings.
It’s a personal preference, but when using wine as a braising liquid, I omit the pickle, as in this recipe. If braising the beef rolls with stock, I center dill pickle spears in the roll with the bacon and onion.
According to wikipedia, traditionally the pan was covered and placed on a raised iron mount in front of an open fireplace for the slow roasting period. Today most cooks braise the beef rolls, covered, on top of the stove or in the oven.
I enjoy serving rouladen with sauteéd purple cabbage and spaetzle, traditional German egg noodles that are particularly suited for soaking up gravy.
As I write these words, my heart is pure. On Christmas Eve, as the legend promises, I will be able to ladle wine for the Christmas table from the Huron River and pick apples for my stuffing from a tree down the street. If my heart is not as pure as I imagine, there’s always rouladen.
Fröhliche Weihnachten, (Merry Christmas)!