December 6, 2010

Swedish meatballs

I have been researching Swedish meatball recipes because they have been on my list of dishes I want to try. Before this, my only experience with Swedish meatballs was a dish my brother made when he was about 10 years old out of a kids cookbook. I remember they tasty, but I'm willing to bet they were not authentic...

The Swedish meatball recipe I was going to follow was from Alton Brown. It had good reviews and seemed relatively easy to follow. When I went to make them, I also found this recipe that looked interesting. So the meatballs I ended up making were a cross of the two. They were very good! It seems that Swedish meatballs are usually served with boiled or mashed potatoes, but I was not in the mood for potatoes. So to make these a full meal, I served them with some egg noodles and a side of baby peas. Additionally, everywhere I looked and read about Swedish meatballs talked about lingonberry sauce. I had never heard of lingonberry sauce before, but I gave it a shot and happened to find it on my grocery store's European foods aisle. It was delicious and a perfect compliment to the spiced meatballs. It's similar in tartness to cranberries, so you could substitute cranberry sauce. The spice combination in the meatballs paired with sweet-tart lingonberry sauce felt very much like the holidays to me. They were also a perfect compliment to one another - I highly recommend looking for the sauce.

This recipe will make about 40-50 ping pong ball-sized meatballs. With the sides, this will easily serve 6-8 people as a comforting meal.

Swedish meatballs
2 thick slices of white bread with crusts removed, cubed
1/4 cup half and half
1 medium-large yellow onion, grated on a box grater
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon plus a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart beef stock
1/4 cup half and half
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, optional

lingonberry sauce, optional 
egg noodles or boiled potatoes, optional

In a large bowl, place the bread and 1/4 cup half and half. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes. In a large and deep skillet, warm one tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and pinch of salt to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion becomes translucent and soft. Set aside to cool. Add the bread and milk mixture to a food processor and pulse until pretty smooth. Place back in the large bowl. Add the remaining meatball ingredients (beef through black pepper), including the cooled onions to the bowl. Mix with your hands for about two minutes. You want everything to be combined, but don't over-work the meat.

Add the remaining one tablespoon of butter and the olive oil to the skillet and warm over medium heat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin to make your meatballs. Use your fingers or a tablespoon to scoop up the meat mixture. Try to make them all about the same size (about the size of a ping pong ball). Brown the meatballs in batches in the skillet, carefully turning once to get both sides browned (about 2-3 minutes per side). Place the browned meatballs on a large baking sheet. Repeat until all the meatballs are made and browned.

Place the baking sheet in the oven to finish cooking the meatballs. This should take about 10-15 minutes. While they are finishing, make your sauce (and start cooking your noodles or potatoes, if using). In the skillet, add the last two tablespoons of butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour to make a roux. Continue whisking and cooking the flour until it turns a light brown color, about 3-5 minutes. Add the beef stock slowly, while whisking. Keep whisking until all the flour lumps are out and the sauce is smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until it begins to thicken. Add the last 1/4 cup of half and half and whisk together. Once it reaches your desired consistency, check for salt and pepper. Remove the meatballs from the baking sheet once they are fully cooked (centers will no longer be pink) and carefully add them to the sauce. Stir to coat.

Serve hot over noodles or with potatoes. Top with parsley, if desired. Add a tablespoon or two of lingonberry sauce to the side or top of your meatballs (it's a really good combination). You can also serve the meatballs alone as a snack or appetizer.
What was I cooking one year ago?: lemon poppyseed muffins

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