Roulade is French and means a thin piece of meat rolled around some kind of filling. Most European cultures have developed some variation on the roulade. Other cultures may also, but I don’t know of any recipes off the top of my head. Getting the meat to the right size and thickness can be accomplished several ways. Slice some thin off a London Broil or some such. Get some Italian Scaloppini. Get some medallions at the grocery and pound them thin. But one of the nicest is the lowly (and comparatively cheap) flank steak. Come to think of it, most of the roulade recipes were developed to deal with the inferior cuts of meat. Tender cuts have little connective tissue and are suitable for rare to medium rare usage (and costs more). Cuts with lots of connective tissue are tough and unpleasant unless handled properly (and are cheaper).
The principle way that everybody knows is the slow cooking method. If you cook the meat with lots of liquid slow and long the connective tissue will soften and partially dissolve. This lends flavor and tenderness. Think of the old fashioned pot roast. Chuck has to be cooked to death or it is not very appetizing. This presents problems if you don’t like overdone meat. I don’t.
There is another way around the dilemma. Instead of making shoe leather, pound the meat thin, using a tenderizing mallet. This mallet has a roughened face that will cut the connective fibers while thinning the meat. Think about it – thinner presents less mass to chew through, therefore less effort, therefore more tender.
Now what you want to get to is about ¼” uniform thickness. Try not to shred the meat. It’s not so easy. You can also cheat. When you select your meat, ask the butcher to run it through his tenderizing machine a few times to get to the right thickness. The butcher should also know the right thickness for rolling. They will usually be happy to do that for you. Either way you should wind up with a piece of meat about ¼” thick, and it will be much larger in surface area than when you started. BTW – don’t think to use a really good piece of meat for this. Pound fillet thin and it will shred.
Ok, we have some meat, we need some kind of stuffing. Sky’s the limit. If it tastes good to you go for it. I’ll give you some ideas in a minute. Spread whatever stuffing and spices over the meat, not too thick. Roll up the meat into a tight cylinder and tie it off with butcher’s twine or just stab toothpicks in to hold it together. Then roast, broil, pan-fry of whatever cooking method you want to use. Now, although it has been tenderized, it is still tough meat and you will need to get the center part at least medium.
Stuffing #1 – Sauté equal amounts chopped carrots, onions, celery, with a couple of big chopped garlic cloves in some olive oil and butter until tender. Maybe 5 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms. Sauté another 5 minutes. Mix together with salt, pepper, wine, shredded ham. Whatever spices you like. Basil is nice. Bay leaf simmered and then removed is good. Add a bit of thick crème and some beef stock. Simmer a bit and then add a couple of tablespoons of flour to thicken it up a bit. When things are stirred together and looking nice remove from heat and spread over the meat. Grate a bit of parmigiano reggiano over the top. Do the roll and tie routine and cook the way you want. I rather like it salted and peppered on the outside and sautéed in olive oil and butter, turning about every 4 to 5 minutes, depending on size. By the time you have done all sides, the center should be on the far side of medium. Let it rest a bit to absorb all the juices, then slice and serve.
Stuffing #2: Cheat. Get some packaged herb stuffing. Make per directions. Add some chopped mushrooms. Add some chopped onion and garlic. Add some French onion soup. Use any or all the add-ons to taste. Spread it on, roll up, tie, cook.
Stuffing #3: Kind of Italian pesto sort of thing. Dump whatever combo of mushroom types you like into a processor. If the mushrooms are dried, soak them in some warm water first. Add some toasted walnuts, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pulse the processor a few times, just to get things roughed. Start adding olive oil and pulsing until it is a smooth pesto. Spread it on, roll up, tie, cook.
Stuffing #4: Kind of a Bordelaise in feel. Slow cook chopped shallots until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms and a couple of sprigs of thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Discard the thyme, add some good, rough red wine and reduce by half. This is going to be a bit liquid, so add a couple of tablespoons of flour to get a spreadable paste. Don’t overcook. Spread it on, roll up, tie, cook.
Stuffing #5: A total cheat. Use any concentrated soup that you like, cream of mushroom, whatever. Spread it on, roll up, tie, cook. I guess you can tell a couple of things here. First of all, yes, I really like mushrooms, garlic, onions and such. Second, the filling can be just about anything that you care to throw together and spread in there. Let your taste buds be your guide.