January Is National Slow Cooker Month—Who Knew?

Crock Pots and slow cookers came to the table a long time ago. They have a history, and I know you’ve used and loved one or the other.

Now the newest craze is the Instant Pot, a pressure cooker that boasts seven functions in a single appliance (or even eight, depending on the model). While I’m not sure cooks actually need all of these options, I agree that some of them are truly useful. And why not declutter your counter space by getting rid of other appliances you don’t use?

However, if you don’t see yourself making yogurt, canning jams or vegetables, or steaming rice in a pressure cooker, why purchase such a pricey item? I wouldn’t turn on a six-quart appliance just to boil eggs! And you need to be in the kitchen while using this appliance, albeit cook times are quite speedy—a benefit that the Instant Pot proudly touts.

Even so, you probably already have a slow cooker tucked away in your pantry. This worthy appliance is truly the only go-to, set-it-and-forget-it pot that you can leave unattended on your counter for hours. Just imagine walking through the door, smelling those wonderful aromas wafting through your home, knowing all you have to do is put dinner on the table. Now aren’t you ready to dust your slow cooker off again?

I created Slow Cook Gourmet specifically with the slow cooker in mind. This cookbook features six unique, exceptional recipes from all over the world. Perhaps someday you might want to adopt these recipes for the Instant Pot—but for now, see my prize-winning slow cooker recipe for Rouladen (beef rolls) from the Black Forest region of Germany. Then read on for the funny history behind the inspiration for this dish.

In honor of National Slow Cooker month, let’s all take a moment to appreciate this wonderful appliance.

Rouladen

Rindsrouladen, which translates to beef roulades, or rolls, are filled and rolled slow-cooked beef steaks, popular in Bavaria and the Swabian region of southwestern Germany. Our recipe is Swabian and an excellent cuisine for the slow cooker.

Second only to sauerbraten in popularity, this tasty meat dish requires some preparation—and it’s worth the effort. I’m told it’s very important to the Swabian that the meat is tender and delicious and the gravy bursts with the flavor of pork. This recipe accomplishes that, and so much more.

Ingredients
1 large onion, diced (reserve 2 tablespoons)
1 large tomato or 3 small plum tomatoes, diced
¼ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
½ lb. pork fat with some meat attached, diced into ½-inch cubes for rendering
4 (8×4) bottom round steaks (for 1 roulade per person), sliced about ¼-inch thick
4 tablespoons organic tomato paste
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons grainy mustard
4 slices nitrate-free bacon
4 dill pickle spears
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup unbleached flour for rolling the steaks (if you desire thicker gravy)
1–1½ quarts beef or veal stock (I use homemade)
1 cup Riesling wine (optional)
1 pint water if needed

For a thicker gravy, you’ll also need:
3 tablespoons potato starch or arrowroot
⅓ cup sour cream
Special equipment: toothpicks or kitchen twine

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix the onion, tomato, and parsley. In a small frying pan set over medium heat, render the pork until you have liquid fat and small perfectly browned cracklings. Pour into the slow cooker turned to the high setting.
  2. Add the onion mixture to the pork fat and cook until transparent, about 25–30 minutes.
  3. Set the 4 beef steaks on a cutting board. Combine the tomato paste and honey. On each steak, spread the mustard and the tomato-honey mixture. Top with a slice of bacon, 2 tablespoons of the chopped onion, and 1 pickle spear. Beginning with the narrower end, roll the steak up and secure with three toothpicks in each, or tie with kitchen twine. Set the meat aside.
  4. Salt and pepper the roulades. If a thicker gravy is desired, roll each stack in flour. Place them in the slow cooker to brown on all sides for 15 minutes, scraping up the brown bits with your spoon.
  5. Add the beef stock and wine to cover the steaks. If necessary, add water, more wine, or more stock.
  6. Cover the slow cooker and simmer on high for 3 to 4 hours. When ready to serve, remove the toothpicks or twine carefully. Let the roulades rest for a few minutes. Serve them whole or sliced.

Why I asked my Swabian daughter-in-law to correctly make the rouladen, even though I consider myself an experienced cook?

The first time I made this dish, I was so proud of how I’d expertly followed an authentic Swabian recipe from my new German daughter-in-law that I took photographs to show my son and his new wife, Birgit. Her reaction was: “Auf keinen Fall darf bei Rouladen die Gurke seitlich rausgucken, also ordentlich einpacken.” Which pretty much translates to, “No self-respecting Swabian hausfrau would leave the pickle ends sticking out of the rouladen.”

I can hear my son Billy laughing. He’s fond of telling this story since it tickles his American funny bone. But Billy is diplomatic, and he softened the blow by explaining that most Germans are very polite. His wife is too, but, more than that, she wanted to keep the peace with her new American mother-in-law. So she added, “It’s nice that your Mutter put her own touch to the rouladen…the pickle sticks out. How interesting!”

Later on, Billy pointed out that she hid her appraising—and perhaps embarrassed—smile behind her hand when she spoke, keeping her true feelings even from him.

When it came time to make the rouladen for this book, I wanted an authentic dish, as well as a photo that wouldn’t appall the Germans—so I had the expert, our sweet Birgit, orchestrate the whole dish. I

Image from The Slow Cook Gourmet book. 

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at [email protected] Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

Related Topics

healthy recipes | slow cooker recipes

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