The Swedish Chef

Savory Recipes, Spring • 29 Apr 2008

I have been feeling culinary inspiration after a recent trip to the predominantly Swedish (and German) town of Lindsborg, Kansas. In February, I travelled to the prairie with my boss Molly and in a few brief days, several of us ate our way through what felt like dozens of Heirloom chickens (we were there investigating antique chicken breeds, their humane farmers, sustainable farming, and of course, recipes).

In between bites of poultry, we decided to go the way of the cow. We sampled plenty of Swedish traditional food, including puffy, soft Beiroks- salty cabbage, onion, and beef filled pastries- and of course, Swedish meatballs. In light of a souvenir, I brought home a jar of Lingonberries, a cranberry-like berry, swimming in a glazed sauce, which have been idle in my cupboard since the trip.

After meeting the jar eye to eye every time I opened my cabinet, I decided not to waste another moment and to let them meet their maker, or at least the walls of our stomachs. And what better way to celebrate the ruby berries than cook up enough juicy Swedish meatballs and a rustic gravy to feed an army?!

Instead of going with a Swedes’ rendition of the dish, I deferred to the gourmet ladies known as the Two Hot Tamales. Yes, their food is often Latin inspired, but they obviously do Scandinavian eats as well. Go figure!

The recipe calls for less than two pounds of meat, which in my mind isn’t that much for a duo of eaters- I am fully capable of consuming a pound of meat without breaking a sweat. However, with add-ins like bread soaked in milk, the recipe makes enough meatballs to feed a ravenous family of 6. I ended up making half the recipe and of course, Mike and I consumed the whole kit and caboodle- my dining room isn’t for nibblers!

These Swedish meatballs are seasoned with red onion and ground ginger, allspice, and cardamon. Since I did not plan ahead, I used canned beef broth to make the creamy gravy. Next time, I will use homemade broth- canned broth has a slightly tinny flavor. Since the gravy is such an essential part of the dish, the taste of the broth is of the essence. Overall, though, the Tamales offered a charming rendition of the Swedish classic.

I served the meatballs with simple boiled new potatoes, which I peeled and cooked with 5 sprigs of dill in salted water. Of course, the dish would not have been complete with a spoonful of the sweet, slightly crunchy Lingonberries.

Swedish Meatballs
Adapted from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken

2 slices white bread, without the crusts, torn into pieces
1/4 cup milk
3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 small red onion, grated or very finely chopped
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter and vegetable oil for frying meatballs

2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish

1.In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk until soft. In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients except the butter and oil, and add the soaked bread. Mix thoroughly until smooth, it’s best to use your hands for this. Shape into small, golf-ball size meatballs (by dipping your hands in cold water, the meatballs won’t stick to your hands.)

2.Heat butter and oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs, about 8 to 10 at a time, and gently brown on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. Shake the skillet now and then so meatballs stay round and brown evenly. Place them on a heated baking pan in a low oven to keep warm.

3.To make gravy, deglaze the skillet with 1 cup of the stock, letting it simmer for 5minutes while scraping the bottom of the skillet with a spatula. Strain the gravy into a clean saucepan and add the remaining 1 cup of stock. In a small bowl, mix the flour with 1/4 cup of cold water until smooth. Whisk flour mixture into warm gravy, and let simmer, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, until thickened slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper.

4.To serve, arrange the meatballs on a serving platter, pour hot gravy over them, and garnish with parsley. Serve with boiled new potatoes and lingonberry sauce.

Yield: 4 Servings.

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