A Matambre is a pinwheel style roast where a thin piece of meat has a filling applied to one side and then is rolled up, tied and cooked. The perfect slices you see on the right were obtained using this “Two Spatula Method”
You could probably call this the “Two Spatula Method” and I use it for any kind of stuffed roast. There are several types of stuffed meat roasts you may make. The first is a pin wheel type roast. A Matambre is an example of this. You take a large thin piece of meat, like a butterflied flank steak, and put long thin strips of fillings or some form of stuffing on top of the steak. It is then rolled up and tied for cooking. The second type is a butterflied roast. This is where a piece of meat is cut in half with the knife parallel to the cutting board. To be more precise you don’t fully cut it in half, you go in one side and stop just before the knife exists the other side. This allows you to open up the piece like you are opening up a book. One of the uses for butterflying is to allow you to fill the inside of the roast with a stuffing, after which you close the roast back up and tie it shut. A third type of stuffed roast is created by cutting a pocket into the meat. It is similar to butterflying, but when you make the horizontal cut you leave a thin piece of meat on 3 sides. This leaves you a pocket you can add a filling or stuffing to. These three types of stuffed roasts share one other thing: Most of the time they can be a pain in the butt to cut.
This is a stuffed butterflied leg of lamb. The lamb was cut almost in half and was opened up and unfolded just like a book. Again perfect slices.
The matambre you see in the pictures above has nice even slices. It is a thing of beauty, if I do say so myself. What you don’t see here are the first couple of slices I tried that fell apart. There are several problems. If the fillings are hard and dry like the matambre above, which has various meats, veggies and cheese, there is no binder holding them together. You cut them into slices and the fillings want to drop out, often from the long back and forth motion of the knife. A more moist filling tends to stick together a little better, that is until the slice is almost done and gravity takes over. The weight of the meat at the top starts bearing down on the softer filling and it begins to get squeezed out like toothpaste in a tube and eventually the slice collapses. There is one other part of this tip besides employing spatulas, that I will mention right now. Use an electric knife. I have a fancy Wusthoff carving knife that cost over $100, but my $50 electric knife works better. I know it is a little non-intuitive to think something costing half as much works twice as good - but it does. I think it may be the short and very fast strokes that do it. They are far gentler to the delicate stuffed roast. Also the electric knife requires less downward pressure while you are cutting.
This beef tenderloin was pocketed. The roast had a slit made along almost the entire length of the top. The sides and bottom remain uncut and a pocket is created to receive the stuffing. Again no issues slicing it.
The first stuffed roast I made was a matambre, two matambres actually. When I went to carve the first slice with the electric knife, the slice just disintegrated as the knife passed through. This was an end slice which was a bit uneven and didn’t have the same width piece of meat on all the layers. I hoped the first full slice would work better. It didn’t. I thought perhaps the motion of the electric knife was causing the problem, so I got out my very sharp, very expensive carving knife. It did a worse job. I had to put more downward pressure on to try to pierce the outer crust and this didn’t help. I tried a serrated knife which worked slightly better than the carving knife, but still worse than the electric knife. I had now cut a quarter of the way through the first matambre and didn’t have a single intact slice to show for it. I was beginning to get desperate and I started thinking of how I could keep the slices from falling apart, collapsing, bursting or otherwise disintegrating on the side opposite my cut. A spatula came to mind and since I needed to hold the knife and the carving fork, this would require a third set of hands. My dad was standing around watching so I explained the plan to him. While I was cutting the meat he would hold a spatula against the previously cut end pinning the slice in the vertical position. In theory this would prevent both vibration-based and gravity-based collapses from happening. The spatula is actually held backwards, with the bottom face of the blade against the meat. This way the sloped handle doesn’t interfere physically with the knife or with the view of the person carving the meat.
The theory proved to be sound. When I finished cutting the piece with the spatula in use, it was 100 percent intact. The only problem was getting the on the serving platter. At this point I didn’t want to go through the step of putting it down on the cutting board. Going straight to the serving platter meant one less handling step. I raised the knife up to the center of the slice of meat and began putting pressure up against the slice, pushing away from the main piece of meat and downwards towards the cutting board. Meanwhile my dad started doing the same thing with his spatula, rotating it down and away from the roast. Once the spatula was lowered to nearly horizontal the meat could be transferred to the serving platter. The spatula saved this day. Every other piece we cut was perfect. We soon discovered for roasts with a softer filling or where you were trying for thin slices a second spatula is required. In this variation the first spatula is pressed up against the previously cut end of the meat just as before. If possible after the slice is cut, the spatula is tilted back just enough to remove the knife and insert a second spatula along the cut line. Then the two spatulas are lowered together pinning the slice between them. If you can’t remove the knife without causing problems, leave it down on the cutting board while you insert the second spatula.
So there you have it. You will need a second person to help you with this, unless you have more than the normal two hands. But I have been using this technique for 5 years now and it hasn’t failed me yet. Now anytime I have a stuffed roast to carve I have an electric knife, two spatulas and an assistant at the ready.