15 September 2009

Swedish Meatballs

Being Swedish, I can't believe it took me over 40 posts to finally post a recipe for Swedish meatballs! These are a modified recipe of my mom's meatballs (who else?) and are perfect for children as well as adults. In Sweden, meatballs are generally served as a kid's dish and they're usually a huge hit on the smorgasbord for Christmas. These have a slightly more "adult" taste.

When I was working in the kitchen of a bar outside of Paris (The Bitter End in St Germain-en-Laye), I made them and they became an instant hit. After that first try, I basically had to make them as the daily special every Wednesday! The main reason I'm posting right now is because someone I used to work with at that bar was checking out this blog for the first time and was wondering where the meatballs were at!

Meatballs can be made as almost "thin" food (by using water and low fat meats) or, even more delicious, as a decadent meal that you probably shouldn't be eating on a daily basis (by using cream for both the meatballs themselves and the pan sauce.) The below recipe is the more decadent kind, but I have commented what to substitute if you want a leaner dish. I served this with my creamy mashed potatoes, but the original dish is generally served with boiled potatoes or some form of pasta.

Swedish Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and Cream Sauce


1 lb ground beef (I use 7% fat which seems to work well)

5 oz ground pork
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 large yellow onion
3 tbsp butter
white pepper
kosher salt

"Stock" and Sauce:

beef or veal stock (preferably homemade, or a reduced broth - dried will work)
1 carrot
1/2 yellow onion
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves
~10 oz heavy cream
corn starch
soy sauce

Mashed Potatoes:

6 large potatoes
1/3 cup sour cream
white pepper
kosher salt

Lingonberry jam for serving (available at IKEA all over the world)

Begin by bringing 1/2 gallon of water to a rolling boil. Add the carrot, half onion (cut up in chunks), bay leaves, garlic cloves (smashed and peeled) and the stock. If you're using homemade, well-reduced stock, about 1/4 - 1/3 cup will be enough. If using dried bullion, about 1.5 - 2 tablespoons should be enough. Let this boil (without a lid) while making the meatballs.

Peel the potatoes and cut them up into chunks (for faster cooking). Pour water into a large pot, add the potatoes and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. I generally keep them covered while boiling; just keep an eye on the pot if you do the same.

For the meatballs, start by mixing the cream (this can be replaced by water for a leaner meal) and the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Let stand for ten minutes. In the meantime, very finely cut the onion. I used a very fine grater for this - it basically turned the onion into a mush, which is fine. You don't want large chunks of onion in the meatballs. Once the breadcrumbs and cream have stood for ten minutes, add the ground beef, ground pork, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, the onion and the egg. I wear latex gloves for the next step - if you do not have any available, make sure you have some cold water in a bowl to dip your fingers in.

Mix the ingredients well with your hands. Once there are no chunks of the breadcrumb mix left, you're ready to start rolling. Make meatballs around an inch to an inch and a half in diameter and place them on a plate.

Turn the oven to 250 degrees F. Place about 5-6 meatballs in the pot of boiling "stock" and leave for about 3 minutes. Most of the meatballs should start floating (but if they do not, don't let them stay in the pot for more than 3 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate covered with a paper towel. Once you've cooked all the meatballs, let the water continue cooking. In a large pan (I prefer cast iron, but nonstick or stainless steal will work fine), melt the butter over medium heat. Add about ten meatballs and cook until they have some surface color. Be careful not to burn them. Once a batch is done, place in an oven-safe dish and place the dish in the oven. Repeat until all the meatballs are done.

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and put back into the pot you boiled them in (or a bowl). Mash them with a fork or potato masher. Add about a teaspoon of white pepper and the sour cream, then stir to combine. Keep warm by placing a lid on top (mashed potatoes will also reheat well in the microwave if need be).

The final step is the sauce. If there's very little to no fat left in the pan you cooked the meatballs in, add a tablespoon or two of butter. Add about a tablespoon of corn starch and stir with a whisk or wooden spoon, removing brown bits from the pan. Next, bring out a mesh strainer and pour the "stock" into the pan. You'll need about a cup of the stock. Whisk together and add the cream (if you wish for a leaner meal, you can replace the cream with more stock, water or red wine) and about two tablespoons of soy sauce - make sure you taste it, soy sauce is salty! Whisk and let cook for a minute or two. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the meatballs from the oven, place on a plate and smother with the sauce. If you're using boiled potatoes instead of mashed, make sure they get a dose of the sauce as well! Serve with the lingonberry jam and eat immediately.

Hmm, I wonder if I should go have seconds now...