All Rolled Up

The Fall/Winter Holidays are some of my favorite times of year.  As the years have gone by they have slowly changed but certain things are always constant.  We all have them, the traditional foods that our families serve for certain holidays.  Thanksgiving has to be the most traditional for my family.  For as long as I can remember, my extended family on my father’s side has gathered at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner.  There was always turkey, my dad’s specialty which has been completely enhanced by a love of the Food Network, brining & his infa-red fryer.  My mom prepares the stuffing, corn and mashed potatoes.  The rest of the family supplies everything else: spinach salad, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pies & deviled eggs.  But I had a special task for the last few years… the roll-ups.

In our family the roll-ups are sacred.  There have been times when there weren’t enough or they were made with the wrong ingredients.  My task was important every year and my husband, a roll-up convert, was in 100%.  I don’t know your family tradition (would love to hear it though) but I have had “other” roll-ups with anything from pickles to ham but nothing compares with Sullivan roll-ups.  I once asked my Grandma S. where they came from but she was vague, maybe someone on my Grandpa’s family started it or carried it on.  We’ll probably never know.  They are super basic but absolutely perfect.

Sullivan Roll-ups
Thin sliced Dried Beef (read that, Dried Beef.  Good luck finding it.)
Whipped cream cheese (buy it whipped or whip it yourself)
Green onions

Trim the roots off the green onions.  Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the dried beef.  Roll beef & cream cheese around the green onion.  Enjoy!

I still remember the first year that I was tasked with the roll-ups.  It followed an unfortunate year of only a dozen roll-ups to be enjoyed by more than thirty people.  Or maybe it was the year they showed up made out of ham (ewwww).  I searched high and low for dried beef.  A store clerk even steered me to canned (yeah, canned) dried beef!  Eventually (5 stores later), I found a small local grocer who carried it in their meat department.  They were a hit and I became the default roll-up maker from then on.  Each year has been more challenging to find dried beef.  The small grocer would be sold out, ditto the Westside Polish market, until my dear hubby found the gold mine.  A small Dutch, but still Westside, butcher who smokes his own dried beef.  Here is where I will share a little known dried beef fact; smoked dried beef holds up to cream cheese spread much better than a traditional dried beef which tends to shred and fall apart, but it still maintains the great flavor.

This year, for the first time in many years, I didn’t make roll-ups for a crowd.  It was bitter-sweet to roll just enough for myself, my husband and my parents to enjoy.  But they reminded me of the long history I have with my family and the special food memories we can all share.  I laid mine out on Grandma’s turkey plates and remembered; the mad dash for the first one, the uncle who knew he’d pay for eating an onion but did it anyway, the single roll-up Grandma would savor, the ones my dad would stash away for the next day, and my daughter who, like a few of my cousins, enjoys hers without the onion.

What unique food does your family enjoy only for holidays?

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4 Responses to All Rolled Up

  1. Mary Sullivan says:

    Thank you for the memories!
    The whipped cream cheese was your addition to the roll-ups. I always used unwhipped and ate the shredded dried beef, but that was when dried beef wasn’t $20 a pound.
    But now the whole world will know our secret!

  2. e.marie says:

    hmmm… do you think your butcher does mail order? also, swap your dried beef for prosciutto and your recipe sounds remarkably like one of my aunt’s secret recipes 😉

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