Cut slices from a fat rump of beef six inches long and half an inch thick, beat them well with a pestle, make a forcemeat of bread crumbs, fat bacon chopped, parsley a little onion, some shred suet, pounded mace, pepper and salt; mix it up with the yolks of eggs, and spread a thin layer of each slice of beef, roll it up tight and secure the rolls with skewers, set them before the fire, and turn them till they are a nice brown, have ready a pint of good gravy thickened with brown flour and a spoonful of butter, a gill of red wine with two spoonsful of mushroom catsup, lay the rolls in it and stew them till tender: garnish with forcemeat balls.
Take half a pound of veal, and half pound of suet cut fine and beat in a marble mortar or wooden bowl; add a few sweet herbs shred fine, a little mace pounded fine, a small nutmeg grated, a little lemon peel, some pepper and salt, and the yelks of two eggs; mix them well together, and make them into balls and long pieces, then roll them in flour, and fry them brown. If they are for the use of white sauce, do not fry them, but put them in a sauce pan of hot water, and let them boil a few minutes.
Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife, 1824
My recipe, I admit, is a loose interpretation of Randolph’s. I tried the recipe with rump, as Randolph calls for, but found flank much easier to work with, and better. Instead of “gravy” (by which Randolph means stock) I use canned beef broth, and instead of mushroom catsup (which is totally makeable but a nuisance and requires forethought) I added mushrooms, lemon juice, and soy sauce. I scaled back the suet in the forcemeat–and, actually, I didn’t use suet but beef fat trimmings because that is what my grocer had. (This substitute works fine in most savory dishes—but never in a pudding.) Both the stuffing and forcemeat have a texture rather like that of hotdogs and also a vaguely similar flavor though more complex and interesting. This will serve six people if you can find a flank steak weighing 2 1/2 pounds or more, which, unfortunately, is not easy.
Cut 4 to 5 slices bacon crosswise in 1/4-inch strips. Remove the crusts from 4 slices white sandwich bread (or other bread) and spin to crumbs in a food processor, making a generous cupful. In a medium bowl, combine the bacon and bread with 2/3 cup chopped Italian parsley, 3 tablespoons minced onions, and 1/2 teaspoon each ground mace (or grated nutmeg), fine-textured salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Stir with a fork until well combined and then add 3 large egg yolks and stir until the mixture gathers in a ball.
Butterfly a flank steak weighing at least 2 1/2 pounds and split it in half at the seam. Spread the stuffing evenly on both pieces, leaving a 1/2-inch bare border all around. Roll up each flap of meet starting at a short side. Tie each roll across with three loops of twine, and then tuck in ends of the rolls and tie the rolls lengthwise to enclose the stuffing.
In a heavy, ovenproof 10-inch pot, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it is fragrant. Brown the rolls well on all sides, adjusting the heat to keep the pot from scorching. Add 3 tablespoons each finely chopped onion, carrot, celery, and, if you have it, turnip, along with one 14- to 16-ounce can beef broth, 1/2 cup red wine, 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried), and 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, and then cover the pot and transfer it to a 300-degree oven. Bake the rolls, turning every 30 minutes or so, until the meat is perfectly tender when pierced with a fork, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
While the rolls are cooking, place 1/4 cup all-purpose flour in a very small (about 6 inches) heavy skillet. Over medium-low heat, stir the flour occasionally until it begins to brown and then stir it constantly until it darkens to the color of roasted peanuts. Immediately dump the flour into a small bowl and mix in 3 tablespoons of soft butter.
Remove the meat to a plate and cover with foil to keep it from drying out. Pour the braising liquid into a glass measure, degrease it, and add enough water to make 2 cups. Return the liquid to the pot, add 4 ounces (about 2 cups) sliced mushrooms (1 ounce of which can be shiitakes), and simmer over medium heat until the mushrooms are cooked through. Stir in the brown roux and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes, stirring; it will thicken to the consistency of heavy cream. Stir in 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The sauce should be rich and “brown-tasting,” with a little pickle-like sharpness. Be sure it has enough salt. Cut each roll into 6 slices and serve two slices to a person, along with three forcemeat balls. Rice and a green vegetable are good accompaniments.
The forcemeat balls: Cut 4 to 5 ounces cold suet or beef fat trimmings in small pieces and pulse in a food processor until minced but not pasty. In a medium bowl, combine the fat with 8 ounces ground veal (or turkey or chicken), the grated zest of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs (I used 2 teaspoons sage and 1/2 teaspoon each thyme and rosemary; about one-third as much of each dried will also work), 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground mace (if you have it), and 1/2 teaspoon each fine-textured salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir until thoroughly blended and then beat in 2 egg yolks. Drop a scant tablespoon of this of moist, sticky paste into 1 cup of all-purpose flour that has been spread on a plate. Roll the gob in the flour until coated, shaping it into ball, and then transfer the ball to a separate plate. Repeat until you have used up about half of the paste, and then begin shaping the forcemeat into 2-inch cylinders rather than balls. (You need to make at least 18 pieces altogether.) In a 10-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until fragrant. Arrange the forcemeat pieces in the pan and sauté until deep golden brown, turning once. With a slotted spoon transfer the forcemeat balls to a plate. Pour the fat out of the skillet and return the forcemeat balls to it. Reheat the pieces over low heat if they cool before serving.