Fit To Be Tied, Inc.

Aunt Ethel & Uncle Fred's Dinning Room

GUESTS: Alton Brown, Age 8
              Aunt Ethel
              Uncle Fred

AUNT ETHEL: Alton, Junior, I think you're really going to like this.
AB: Oh come on Aunt Ethel, it's just roast beef. I've had that before.
UNCLE FRED: Really. Well I'm willing to bet you, young man, that, uh, you haven't had roast beef that looked like that?
AB: Wow! How'd you do that?
UF: Well, you gotta have special cows.
AE: Oh, Fred.
UF: That's right, that's right. And, uh, they have to take off their skin and put in the filling and then massage it into the muscles.
AB: [to AE] Is that true?
AE: Of course not, dear. Fred, stop teasing him.
UF: Yeah, that's it. And of course they have to roll them over onto their backs at night. But hey, that's what makes them so expensive. Ha, Ha, Ha.
AB: Wow! This tastes great! 
UF: Mmmm.
AB: Do they make them in different flavors?
UF: Sure, all different flavors. Heck, there's even a chocolate cow for dessert. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Crew Members

    Despite my uncle's pernicious propaganda, I later learned that the roast I enjoyed that evening wasn't a roast at all, but a braciola, [pron: bruh-JOLE] a member of the Roulade family, whose members are all composed of a flattened food, covered with some kind of filling, which is then rolled, usually tied, and cooked.

CREW MEMBERS: [off camera] Stuffing is evil!


    No, I'm not talking about stuffing. I'm talking about a thin layer of goodness, a strata if you like, evenly distributed through the food.

AB: [to the crew] Not a big, nasty handful of breadcrumbs shoved up the backside of some poor turkey!

    Despite a reputation for fussiness, all roulades follow a very simple set of rules, okay? Learn the rules, arm yourself with some righteous tools and some sound science, and you can readily wrangle the spiral of joy into the realm we call good eats.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Skydiving Action Figure

    Of all the tasty cuts on the beef critter, only one is perfectly suited to rolling--the flank steak. Which lies just behind the skirt steak and contains a majority of the diaphragm. Why is it perfect?

Flank Steak

Skirt Steak

    It's lean, durable, and the grain runs in this direction. That's not something you see in many steaks. This means that when rolled, cooked, and cut the meat fibers are going to be very, very short, therefore, easy to chew. This is also the perfect piece of meat for a roulade because it is flat. Of course, it could be a little flatter, don't you think? Hey, let's visit the pound.
    The object of pounding meat is to tenderize and flatten, not destroy, which is what most hammerhead models do, because their power is so concentrated in such a small area. More blows are therefore required to cover the surface and, well, since most cooks swing like they're driving a nail; they end up with something that looks like ... [shows a picture of a destroyed piece of meat] Pound for pound, this is the best pounder in town. I'll show you why. But first, we must prep.
    Ask any skydiver, and he'll tell you that the best way to get a broken leg is to land with your legs stiff.

SKY DIVING ACTION FIGURE: [falls to the floor, we hear a crunching sound] AAAAGGGGGHHHHHHH!

    Just as a skydiver should tuck and roll to dissipate the energy, it would really help us if this meat pounder would hit and then slide off the side to dissipate that energy. By putting down a piece of plastic, and just a little bit of water on the meat and the plastic, we've got plenty of lubrication. Observe. [hits the steak with the pounder and deflects it off to the side]
    Well that's enough of that, I think. What we need to do now is contemplate a stuffing, I really like ...

CM: [off camera] Stuffing is evil!


... Okay, not a stuffing. A filling. A filling is what we need. And to make one, we're going to have to get a food processor.

[drops a clover of garlic into the processor and chops it up] 1 Clove Garlic
[pours all of the ingredients into the processor while it's spinning] 1 Tbs. Fresh Parsley, Chopped
1 Tbs. Fresh Oregano, Chopped
1 tsp. Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
1 tsp. Fresh Thyme, Picked
1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan
1 1/4 Cups Flavored Croutons
2 Eggs

    I know. I said I would never buy croutons again. Okay, so I'll just never say never again, because they are convenient and, well, gosh darn it, they're tasty too.

The French term paupiette may replace the word roulade on menus.

Cook's Warehouse: Atlanta, GA - 11:32 am

GUESTS: W, Equipment Specialist

CUSTOMER: Gee, it's a little more than I was planning to spend.
W: Well, you get what you pay for. And as you can clearly see..
C: Hey, is that Alton Brown over there?
W: Who?
C: They guy from the cool show on the Food Network!
W: I didn't think he was so fat, and balding!
C: Excuse me, Mr. Brown? I just wanted to say how much I love your show!
AB: Oh, thank you. Thanks a lot.
W: We were just getting ready to check this gentleman out.
AB: Oh with that, huh? That's a nice knife, but ...
W: But, what?
AB: Well, you know, I've been thinking about knives lately, and have you ever been, like, tying up a roast and you try to cut the butcher's twine with a knife?
C: No.
AB: Well, it'll leave you in stitches! Ha, ha, ha ... umm, I'll give you another for instance. You wanna cut up some chives to go on a baked potato, do you wanna have to go get out a cutting board, or let's say that you wanna cut the back out of a chicken. I mean jeepers, if you use a knife, you gotta have a chainsaw for that practically. And oh, have you ever tried to cut pie dough pastry with a knife?
C: Hard?
AB: Impossible! 
C: What's the answer?
AB: Well, I'm thinking kitchen shears. 
W: Well, if you'd like a pair of shears, I can add these to your knife.
AB: Ah, those are actually poultry shears. May I? You see that little curve right there? That's for getting hold of bones so that you can tear them out. And look, spring-loaded [it pops open startling W]—sorry, W—so that they bounce back in your hands. But there is a safety catch which usually keeps them closed in the drawer. I don't know.
C: So I should get them?
AB: No. You shouldn't get these. You know why? They give you the illusion of safety. I mean, look at all this area down in here. You get chicken 'spooge' down in there, the germs check in, and they don't check out. You can't ever get them clean. And they're not really good for cutting anything smaller than a chicken bone. guess you could trim roses or something, maybe.
W: Come here. I'll show you these. I believe this is what he would call multi-taskers.
AB: Ah, yeah you know, sometimes designers add so many gizmos to tools, the tool can't even remember what it is anymore. I'd say that's mostly a cup holder, if you know what I mean. You know, what I really like are the type that just kind of look like regular old scissors. I really like these. Take a look. You notice that the handle is longer than the blade? That means that you get more leverage when you're cutting. Now take a look at the blades. You'll notice that one side is smooth and the other side has got a little bit of serration to it. The serrations hold on to the food while the smooth blade just cuts nice and precise. Oh, and here's the best part. [takes them apart]
C: Wow!
AB: This is a pair of shears that you can really, really clean. Yep, I love these things. Drop forged, great. I tell you that they do just about everything that fancy knife will do.
C: I'll get this instead of the knife.
AB: Well, uh, good choice. Uhh, you know, nice meeting you. Drop me an e-mail sometime. And W, lovely to see you. Nice shop you've got here. Bye!
C: Now there goes a ...
W: Dead man!
C: What?
W: Oh, nothing.

One of the most popular cuts of flank steak is London broil.

The Kitchen

    Now that we have our scissor story straight, we can talk string. I like cotton string for tying up my food, and I like to keep it clean and out of the way so I don't get tangled. So I just looped it through the lid of this old plastic pitcher. That way I can keep it on the floor between my legs. There. I'm just going to thread that up under the corner of my board so it won't go anywhere.
    Now, we face the stuffing ... Filling, it's filling. Good, filling. Now, this stuff is a little bit on the sticky side, so I'm going to take my spatula and apply a little bit of oil to it at each dose, so that we can scoop it out and smooth it into place. Now, if it starts sticking to the spatula, well, you could just get rid of the spatula and put a little oil on your gloves and massage it into the meat. Still, work to get it as thin as possible, nice and even. Oh, and you don't want to get much on this wide edge [of the meat] here, okay, because this is the edge that's going to seal and hold the whole thing together. There.
    Now, we roll. I like to roll from the farthest edge, which of course is the small one, inward. There. Now, if you've got your stuffing—sorry, your filling, filling—in the right place, you'll end up with something that looks like this. Okay, we're going to start our tying with a surgeon's, or butcher's, knot. Come on in so you can get a look. [the camera moves closer and bumps the table] Oh, bother. Okay, ummm, come on.

[AB proceeds to tie up a large pillows with a think rope
to demonstrate the surgeon's knot]

    So, we have our surgeon's knot ... one pass, two pass, and just snug. Then coming back the other way, we've got one pass, two pass, and tight. Now, the fun part. We've got about eight inches here that we can leave out, we're going to need that later. So, reach under, twist forming a loop, and then snuggle that up onto the meat. Pull tight in one direction, and then snug in that direction. I just made an upside-down loop. Do you need to see that again? Okay, fine. Reach under, make a loop. Hold the loop in your left hand—right hand if you're handed the other direction—pull snug. You're going to need about, oh, I'd say about seven or eight of these to close up the roast.
    There. You're just gonna roll everything over, bring the string all the way up to the top, and cut it with our spiffy new shears. Loop under once, in the middle, and then, we'll tie with one more surgeon's knot right at the top. I like to put a little twist, flip, and tie it. One, two ... and then finish with a regular slipknot. Now, you're ready to either cook it, or you can try this out on your mom and tie her to the railroad tracks. That's fun too.
    Before introducing this [piece of meat] to the heat, introduce it to room temperature for about fifteen minutes. Then introduce it to some canola or peanut oil, just a little bit rubbed on. That is going to help move heat into the meat quicker, and that's going to create browning, and browning is delicious.  There. We just want enough to coat. Then we're going to remove one glove and apply a healthy dose of kosher salt. Besides adding flavor, this is also going to pull water-soluble proteins up to the surface of the meat, and that is going to aid in the browning as well.
    Now, when it comes to browning, we will get our heat through a very hot cast iron skillet. Now, this is going to create some smoke, so you're gonna want to activate your ventilation system. If you don't have a downdraft or a hood, you'd better open up some windows, because there's gonna be some smoke.
    Now, traditionally, this dish is done 100 percent on a cook top, okay? It's browned, then a sauce is added, then there's a cover, and then it just sits there and barely simmers for about three hours. I just don't trust this, because I have never seen a cook top that could stay low enough, heat-wise, to not burn the bottom of the meat, at least a little bit, and I don't think that's good eats. So I like to finish this off in a 350 degree oven, and I like to heat the oven with a baking dish containing three cups of my very, very favorite tomato sauce, which just happens to be Good Eats Tomato Sauce, available to you at So while that gets hot, we've got plenty of time to sear, and this is going to take a few minutes, about a minute per side. As each side browns, I like to rotate it to a new piece of the pan, so that we've got fresh heat moving into the braciola. 

Braciola is the Italian name for roulade.

The Kitchen

    When the meat is thoroughly browned, and the sauce is nice and hot, I'm gonna put one inside the other [the meat into the sauce] And we don't want complete emersion here, of course. We're not talking about a stew. It's a braise. But we do want to lovingly cover the meat in flavorful sauce. There. Very nice, indeed. Be careful, this stuff's got a lot of sugar in it, so it gets very hot and sticky.
    Now, we need a cover and in my book, there's no better cover for this kind of thing than aluminum foil, and I like to double it over. Why? Because then it's easier to make a tent, observe. The reason we want to make a tent is that we don't want the metal touching the meat if we don't have to. For one reason, condensation could form which would kind of slow down the cooking, but also, there's acid in that tomato sauce, and at high enough temperatures it could form a funny reaction with the aluminum, creating off flavors. By tenting, we don't have that problem. Back in the oven and cook. How long? Well ...

You may braise your braciola all day, but
your beef will be cooked in 45 minutes.

    Mmm. Yum.  Mmmm, now that's a nice looking piece of roulade, wouldn't you say? Of course, I could put sauce on top of that, but then it wouldn't look so pretty anymore. So, I'm going to sauce the plate first. Just a little pool right in the middle—gracious, messy—and the roulade goes down. There. Gosh darn it, it looks almost too good to eat. But heck, that's never stopped me before. Now I know that terrestrial critters usually get this treatment, but you know, there's no excuse for not rolling and tying seafood.

    If you had a piece of parchment paper covered with a piece of plastic wrap, and you had some nice looking seafood, say, a couple of long thin fillets from salmon, maybe three flounder fillets, some lovely sea scallops, and we'll say a tablespoon each of dill and parsley, you could make my favorite seafood roulade. Which is a little bit unorthodox, but darn tasty. Let's build one!

2 Thin Fillets of Salmon
3 Fillets of Flounder
8 Sea Scallops
1 Tbs. Fresh Dill
1 Tbs. Fresh Parsley

    Start by laying out your salmon, thusly. With the tails facing away form you, and slightly overlapping. Like that, okay? Then, we're gonna lay out the flounder. This time with the tails facing towards you barely overlapping like that. Then the scallops. Of course, it's kinda tough to keep scallops in place, they're gonna fall all over the place when we roll.

    [voice over] So, grab yourself a metal skewer, or even a long wooden skewer, and thread the scallops on. Now, make sure that you push through the bottom or top of the scallop, meaning the flat side, as opposed to the round side.

    Let's put them down right on the end. Now, before we close, a little seasoning would be good. So, pepper, a little salt—kosher of course—and the herbs. Just try to sprinkle them evenly from one end to the other. There. Now we roll, the fun part. Grab the end of the plastic, and just start to roll it over, keeping that skewer in place. And as soon as you get a nice little wave of fish happening there, stop, grab your sheet pan and place it right at the edge and pull. This is going to add a nice little compression factor, so that we get a nice, tight roll. And if your plastic is right, then you ought to be able to basically pull it right off, like that. Now, go the opposite direction and gently roll in the parchment. Don't try to get it tight, it's as tight as it needs to be. There. Now seal the ends, pick up the skewer, and move this straight to the refrigerator.
    After a couple of hours in the chill chest, this meat will firm up enough so that it can be cut up into rounds without unraveling, which would be a very bad thing. If you're in a hurry, you could skip this step, but I wouldn't if I were you.

A 2 lb. salmon and a 40 lb. salmon have the same number of scales.

The Kitchen

    I love grills. Which may explain why I like my broiler so much. After all, what is a broiler but an upside-down grill, right? Now, if you saw our roast episode, you may recall that when this box is set to bake, a calrod unit, or a gas burner on the floor, heats the floor of the oven. Given time, that heat moves up the walls and into the ceiling, then it radiates towards the food from all directions at once [red tennis balls bounce around AB as he winces]. Like a grill, a broiler, however, is a directional weapon designed to concentrate energy in one direction only. [red tennis balls fall straight from above all at once]
    Our seafood swirls are perfect for the broiler, because they are flat. The flatter the food, the more surface faces the fire, the faster the food cooks, right? Now, in this case, speed is important, because we want to minimize moisture loss. The longer the food's exposed to the heat, the dryer it's going to be, and that, is why I love my broiler. We're going to let this heat for a few minutes, before slipping in the fish.
    A couple of hours has gone by and our fish is indeed nice and firm. Now is where things get a little unorthodox.

    [voice over] Place your roll on a cutting board and remove the skewer. Then, call into service a long, serrated knife, or your electric knife, and cut the roulade into three-quarter to one-inch rounds. Moving each to a broiling pan that's been lubricated with cooking spray. Now, do not remove the paper until you've got them in place on the pan. It'll help keep them together. Once you've got them all cut and arranged, with at least an inch of space between them, brush them down with canola oil, and then if you feel like it, give them a little extra seasoning with salt only, no pepper. Pepper burns.

    Now, under the broiler we must go. You want to position your top rack about six inches from the heat. How long is this going to take? Well, that depends on two things. How done you like your fish, and how powerful your broiler is. Mine's pretty strong, so I'm going to check on this in about three minutes.
    Mmmm. Golden brown and delicious. Now, you could have this straight up, maybe with a little vinaigrette, or a pat of herb butter would be very nice indeed.
    I hope we've inspired you to take a roll on the wild side, and try your hand at a roulade. Besides these fine products, pork, chicken, turkey, all roulade ready. Even egg foams can be shaped and rolled. And of course, there are dessert roulades aplenty. Mmmm. Swiss Roll, but that'll have to wait foranother episode of Good Eats.

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Transcribed by Jonathan Huffins.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010