My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Paupiettes du Boeuf - Stuffed Beef Rolls

It sounded scrumptious. Beef stuffed with a savory pork filling, braised in stock and white wine and served with a mustard-cream sauce. I contemplated this recipe for a week before finally taking the plunge.

Kitchen twine was procured from a nearby Bed, Bath and Beyond.
I was ready.

First, the filling called for equal amounts of ground pork and veal. As a closeted vegetarian, I try my best to use free-range, organic dead animals in my recipes. Since “free-range” veal would not be veal at all, I simply doubled the pork. It got whizzed with pork fat, allspice, parsley, thyme, garlic and an egg (an organic egg that ran free, of course.)

I used a flat iron steak, cut into cubes and pounded out into the requisite 1/8 inch thick and roughly 5-inch circles. The stuffing went in and then began the really tedious job of tying these little beef rolls with twine. It wasn’t difficult – just labor intensive.

Frying them in bacon fat was a breeze now that they were securely tied. Onions and carrots received a turn in the pan, flour was added, the beef rolls were returned, (along with a pork rind) covered beef stock and white wine and braised for an hour and a half.

I wish someone had come over just to smell my apartment during then; not to sample this recipe -- the aroma alone would have been satisfying enough.

After the 90 minutes, the beef rolls were removed in order to finish the sauce with cream and Dijon mustard. But first, all the strings had to be removed. My sharpest knife didn’t work – it only tore the beef rolls apart. Scissors didn’t work either. I thought of using toenail clippers but refrained. Finally, a tiny pair of scissors did the job. I’m glad I wasn’t trying to get these on the plate for eight guests. Such would have been a hugely frustrating and impractical ordeal.

1/3 cup of cream and a mere tablespoon of mustard was whisked into the remaining sauce to finish it. I served it with baked tomatoes that I had just bought at a farmer’s market.

The verdict? After all that tedious work, it reminded me of . . . what was that? . . . something from my childhood. . . .

oh, yes . . . meatloaf!

Plain, simple meatloaf. I wanted to squirt ketchup on it.

The sauce really didn’t have any mustard identity at all, so I dolloped a spoonful of it on the plate. That really made it much more appealing so I whisked in 3 more tablespoons of it into the rest of the sauce. Bingo. That made it sing.

In hindsight, I would definitely make one large beef roll, jelly roll fashion, rather than these little, laborious paupiettes. I’d use a flank steak, split into a quarter-inch-thick palette with the stuffing rolled in. Two pieces of string would have been needed rather than the three dozen that this recipe required. Sliced crosswise with the sauce ladled over it would make for a much more appealing and practical presentation.

After I had mustard-upped the sauce, I wolfed this down. The leftovers are something I'm really looking forward to.

Okay, I have to admit, I did give one a squirt of ketchup. And that was good, too.

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