In France, this beef roll dish is called alouettes sans têtes, meaning “doves without heads.” The beef slices are stuffed with pancetta, garlic, and herbs, rolled, and sauteed until brown on the outside. Then the paupiettes are simmered in a delicious tomato sauce until meltingly tender.
LC Swoop and Tap Technique Note
There is an art to pounding beef for paupiettes. Paula Wolfert suggests the swoop and tap technique. Essentially, you use a kitchen mallet to gently tap the steaks flat, working from the center to the outer edge, while simultaneously pushing the meat into a wider shape. This achieves an even thickness throughout. Tapping, not outright hammering, means that the meat won’t tear. Swooping in with the mallet—gently, of course—gives you a little momentum for spreading the meat ever outwards. The steaks will soon be thin, flat, and ready for rolling. Swoop and tap. Works like a charm.
- A 12-inch Spanish cazuela, a straight-sided flameware skillet, or a French poêlon de terre. If using an electric or ceramic stovetop, be sure to use a heat diffuser with the clay pot.
- 8 slices boneless lean beef cut ¼ inch thick from across rib roast, each roughly 7 by 4 inches (about 1 3/4 pounds total)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces pancetta diced
- 1 tablespoon mashed garlic
- 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 ounce dried cèpes or porcini broken into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 carrot minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- Herb bouquet 3 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, 2 fresh thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 1 celery rib stuck with 2 cloves, and 1 strip orange zest wrapped in cheesecloth
- 4 garlic cloves halved
- 3 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
- 3 cups meat or poultry stock heated
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons capers drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon each chopped flat-leaf parsley and thyme leaves, minced garlic, and grated orange zest for garnish
- Lay the slices of beef out on a work surface and pound gently to flatten slightly. (Be sure not to pound too forcefully, or the beef slice will tear.) Season with salt and pepper. In a mixing bowl, combine the pancetta, mashed garlic, parsley, celery, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix with your hands to blend well. Divide the stuffing evenly among the beef slices. Roll each slice up over the filling at the wider end, fold in the sides, roll up, and secure with white kitchen string or toothpicks.
- Place the dried cèpes in a small bowl and cover with 1 cup hot water; let stand for 30 minutes to soften. Remove the cèpes from the soaking liquid, squeezing the mushrooms to release the liquid into the bowl. Reserve the liquid. Chop the cèpes.
- Heat the olive oil in the cazuela set over medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the meat rolls and saute slowly, turning, until browned all over, 20 minutes. Add the white wine, herb bouquet, garlic halves, tomato paste, cèpes, reserved mushroom-soaking liquid, and stock. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cover with a sheet of parchment and a lid. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 2 hours, turning the beef rolls once after an hour. Transfer the beef rolls to a side dish and cover with foil. Strain the cooking juices, pressing down on all the vegetables and any bits of pancetta that may have fallen out. Let the beef rolls and sauce cool separately; then cover and refrigerate. (The recipe can be made to this point up to a day in advance.)
- About 1 1/2 hours before serving, completely degrease the sauce. Cut away the strings from the beef rolls. Return the beef rolls and the sauce to the cazuela. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 1 hour, turning the beef rolls in the sauce from time to time. Stir in the vinegar and capers and simmer for a few minutes longer. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with the chopped parsley and thyme, garlic, and orange zest and serve at once.
Originally published October 19, 2009