Introduction: Finger Sandwiches: Meat Roll-Ups

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…

These meat roll-ups make quick, delicious, 100% customizable appetizers.  Think of them as meat sushi with sliced meat in place of nori, cream cheese standing in for rice, and a mix of all your favorite herbs, fruits, and vegetables inside.  Stand a few rolls on end for extra style points.

They're also great last-minute appetizers you can whip up when company arrives but dinner is still cooking, and perfect healthy toddler finger food.  As a bonus, these finger sandwiches are gluten-free, and work well for paleo dieters if you go light on the cheese. 

Step 1: Tools & Ingredients

You'll need some combination of the following:

cutting board
sharp knife
rag or paper towel for knife-wiping
serving dish

thin-sliced deli meat of your choice (I used roast beef, but corned beef, ham, pastrami, salami, etc all work well.)
plain or flavored cream cheese (or other spreadable cheese like chevre)
fresh basil (or other leafy herb/green of your choice: spinach, arugula, mint, dill, shiso, etc)
seasonal veggies (asparagus, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, sprouts, chives, scallions, etc)
seasonal fruits (apple, pear, mango, papaya, avocado, strawberry, peach, etc)
preserved fruits/veggies (pickled peppers, roasted tomato, sourkraut/kimchi, pickled daikon, etc)
anything else you think would taste good wrapped in cheesy meat 

Step 2: Flavoring Cream Cheese

You can buy pre-flavored cream cheese, but it's dead easy to make your own.  Just let a brick of cream cheese soften on the counter, then mix in a combination of the following ingredients.  There's no specific ratio: just keep adding more until it tastes good!

- finely minced or microplane-grated garlic
- dijon or flavored mustard
- finely minced onions, chives, or scallions
- dash of Worchestershire sauce or soy sauce
- chopped fresh herbs
- smoked salmon
- mashed anchovy fillet
- grated parmesan cheese
- chili powder, smoked paprika, or other spices

- fruit jam
- honey
- citrus zest
- frozen & thawed berries, mashed
- cinnamon, allspice, or other spices

Step 3: Lay It Out

Spread your meat on the cutting board, place the basil on top in a row about 1/4 along from one end, then add all the remaining ingredients you want to include in a line on top of the basil.

As you see below, sometimes I lay out a line of cream cheese, sometimes I spread it across the basil - whatever fits your taste.  Also, note that placing the basil leaves face-down on the meat means they'll stick down nicely and be easier to spread with cream cheese.

Step 4: Roll It Up

Flip the short edge over your filling, and stick the meat to itself across the center of the deli slice to make a nice pocket for the fillings.  Then grab the filling, and roll until you reach the far edge of the meat.


Step 5: Slice

Now slice your roll into 2-5 pieces, roughly 1 to 1.5 inches long.  Use a very sharp knife for the cleanest cut, and wipe down the blade between cuts so the edges look nice and aren't covered in stray bits of cream cheese.  

Step 6: Assembly-line Technique

If you're making lots of these as appetizers for a crowd, use an assembly line technique.  Use a large cutting board, or clear off a section of counter for assembly.

- lay out as many meat slices as you can comfortably reach, probably 9-12
- work your way through the ingredients, applying each to all slices before moving onto the next ingredient
- roll each slice up and set aside
- repeat until you've created as many rolls as you need
- slice 2-3 rolls at a time, depending on the size of your knife
- shift slices to serving plate, then continue slicing the rest of the rolls

Step 7: Serve

Select a suitably-sized serving dish, and move your cut sandwiches onto the dish.  Set endpieces up on end to display their edges, and set center slices meat-side down.  If you're making appetizers for a crowd, snug them in tight on the serving plate.

If your meat is drier or less flexible/sticky than the roast beef I've used here, it may try to unroll on you.  In this case, simply stab through each finger sandwich with a toothpick.  The toothpick will both keep the roll together, and make it easier for people to serve themselves without cross-contaminating the rest of the buffet.

This is meat and cheese, so cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Refrigerate leftovers as well, if you have any, as they'll taste even better the next day.