Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

I've had the most terrible recurrent craving for Swedish meatballs.

The first time I had these was when I was a kid in the 1970s.  My mom would go load up on oodles of frozen food at what really were dingy food warehouses -- pre-Sam's Club and Costco -- and she would buy Swedish meatballs to serve at her parties.  The frozen meatballs would go ding! ding! ding! into the steam tray and we would squeeze some preservative-laden sauce out of sealed plastic bags into the tray. A few hours later the meatballs would be warmed through and covered in the slightly gloppy sauce, beckoning me with their salty and slighty tangy aroma.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was in my 20s and out in the workforce.  I did the Firm tapes for 2 hours a day, and Stouffers' Lean Cuisine Swedish meatballs were my favorite weekly lunch item.  At the time, my palate, loaded down with fat free this and that, thought the meatballs tasted dandy.

Fast forward 20 years and here I was with a Swedish meatball craving.  I went to the store, bought some Stouffers, and eagerly heated it up in the microwave.  I ripped open the plastic, forked a meatball, closed my eyes in anticipation, and took a bite.


All I could taste were chemicals, and the meatballs were stringy and springy.  I threw the rest away.

You would think that would have been the demise of the craving, but no, two weeks later, Swedish meatballs were rolling around in my brain again.

This time I was smart.  I went to the store and bought meatloaf mix, a mixture of beef, pork, and veal.  I made meatballs from scratch, mixing the meat with fresh white bread crumbs soaked in milk, eggs, onions, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice.  I rolled and rolled and rolled the little balls and then browned them on all sides in a skillet, and took them out and set them aside.  Now these were meatballs, tender and light.

To the drippings in the skillet, I added some flour to make a roux, cooked it for a few minutes to take away any floury aftertaste, and then slowly added beef broth until I had a sauce.  I added the meatballs back and simmered them for 10 minutes so they were cooked through.  To finish off the meatballs, I folded in some sour cream, tasted and adjusted the salt and pepper, and added some parsley.

All natural.  All delicious.

I didn't write down what I did, but no worries.  For some Swedish meatball recipes, check out the recipe at Simply Recipes and Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network site.

I do have some tips for making meatballs without a recipe that is based on ratios.  For 1 lb. of meat, use
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt.  This should nicely season your meatballs.
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices white bread, no crust, made into breadcrumbs.
  • If you want the meatballs super soft, make a panade by soaking the bread crumbs in about 1/4-1/3 cup milk.
  • So that I can eyeball seasonings, what I normally do is spread the meat on a Silpat or cookie sheet.  This way, it's almost like seasoning your food at the table .  I distribute salt, pepper, any additional spices, parsley, breadcrumbs, cheese on the top of the meat, and I can easily see how much meat I have in relation to other ingredients.  I then put everything in a bowl, add an egg and some liquid (if I didn't make a panade) and incorporate everything together.
  • I cook a sample of meatball meat before I roll all the meatballs.  That way I can taste it and adjust seasonings.
I found the Swedish meatballs were even better the next day.  I love leftovers!


Trissa said...

You are so making me crave these right now Ninette! I haven't had meatballs in ages... On your post - how times have changed! I can't imagine you enjoying Souffers! (or exercising 2 hours a day!)

Pam said...

They look and sound delicious!

Skip to Malou said...

It's funny that my hubby would go to IKEA for their swedish meatballs haha. One time he told me to learn how to make swedish meatballs before people will find out that he goes there to have some and it will ruin my food blogging career. I lol'd at him. Thanks for sharing, maybe I could redeem myself from hubs with this recipe haha!

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

Ultimate comfort food, Ninette! I love to have some now.

Susie said...

Thank you for posting this. I hadn't thought about Swedish Meatballs in such a long time. I'll be trying your recipe for sure.

Table Talk said...

Meatballs have been and proabably always be party favorites I think. If you serve Sweedish meatballs made this way, they are guarenteed to disappear quickly!

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