We Invite a Chef to Dinner

When we first moved to California we heard about this great Italian restaurant in Santa Ynez called Trattoria Grappolo. We were told it was one of the best Italian restaurants in the area, so of course we had to go check it out. The food was really good. Laura struck up a conversation with the hostess to tell her how much we liked the food. Turns out she was the chef’s wife Jennifer and the chef was Leonardo Curti. Jennifer mentioned that Leo was conducting cooking classes at their home and told us we should come sometime.

Well, we started going to Leo’s cooking classes, which he held in his garage. He would prepare the dish to show us how, then his restaurant would bring in the finished, featured dish and we all would eat. It worked great and it was a lot of fun. We got to know Leo and Jennifer quite well and so we decided, what the hell, we’re good cooks, let’s invite them for dinner!

Laura wanted to make something reliable and German, so she made her family recipe for Rouladen. Rouladen is thinly sliced beef, painted with mustard, onions, pickles and bacon, then rolled up and braised in a sauce. She made it and it turned out great. We served it with mashed potatoes and red cabbage, which is traditional.

Anyway Leo was impressed. He said it was like the Italian dish Braciole, but he liked Laura’s version better.

By the way Leo has written several cookbooks. Here is a link to one of them on Amazon.

Weeks later we ran into Jennifer, who laughed and told us Leo immediately went home and tried making Rouladen himself several times, but it was not as good as Laura’s. We will share Laura’s recipe with you:


Author: Laura Kirkley

Serve meat with mashed potatoes (Spatzle, potatoe dumplings or boiled potato), sauce and red cabbage.

Serves: 6



6 slices, top round steak (about 1.5 pounds)
1 medium, onion –
finely chopped

2 tablespoons, dill pickle –

2 tablespoons, Dijon mustard
1/2 slice, raw bacon –

il Fustino Mission Reserve Organic EVOO
salt and freshly ground pepper

For Sauce:
1 medium, carrot –
finely chopped

1 stalk, celery –
finely chopped

2 cups, beef stock or broth
1 medium, onion –
finely chopped

2 slices, bacon –

1 cup, red wine
1 tablespoon, cornstarch, diluted in cold water –
diluted in cold water


  1. Pound meat and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Saute one chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat until golden. Mix with pickles and raw bacon.
  3. Paint each slice of beef with mustard. Layer with mixture of onion, pickle and bacon. Roll up and secure with a toothpick or tie with butcher’s string.
  4. In deep frying pan, saute beef on all sides in olive oil over medium-high heat until browned. Remove Rouladen from pan to a warm platter.
  5. Add the chopped vegetables for the sauce and the bacon to the pan. Stir and brown for approximately 2 or 3 minutes.
  6. Add wine and reduce to half.
  7. Add stock/broth, return Rouladen to pan. Braise in preheated 300 degree oven for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
  8. Remove the meat and strain the sauce.
  9. Return sauce to original pan and place over medium on stove top. Thicken sauce with cornstarch mixture.
  10. Once sauce to thicken return Rouladen to pan and heat.
  11. Serve immediately