Friday, January 24, 2014

The Swedish Chef



Swedish meatballs (kottbullar) are a traditional dish consisting of seasoned beef, pork, and/or veal meatballs covered in a brown gravy and are one of the best-known and loved Swedish dishes. The first recipe appeared in print in Cajsa Warg's Swedish cookbook in 1754. Before the invention of meatgrinders in 1845 by German Baron Karl Drais, Swedish meatballs were truly a labor of love and considered a luxury item served at traditional smorgasbords and other special occasions. Swedish meatballs also have deep roots in America's upper Midwest, brought by Scandinavian immigrants with the peak of their migration between 1870-1900. They were also featured at the 1939 New York World's Fair at the Swedish Pavilion's Three Crowns Restaurant, explaining their popularity in the early 20th century with a resurgence in the 1950s and 60s. Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with brown gravy, mashed or boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam or sauce, and pickled (or pressed) cucumbers. 

This recipe, that I found at The Spice Garden, is adapted from Irma Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking and is the best I've ever tasted! The meatballs are exceedingly tender and moist, and the creamy sauce has just the right tang thanks to the addition of sour cream. One tip to remember when incorporating sour cream to a warm sauce is to stir in 1/2 cup of the gravy, 1/4 cup at a time, into the sour cream, whisking very well until incorporated before adding it to the gravy. If you don't do this, more than likely the sour cream will curdle and leave clumps in your gravy. Eek! I like to serve my Swedish meatballs with buttered egg noodles and if you can't find lingonberry jam, cranberry jam makes a decent substitute. So stop buying them at IKEA and make them yourself! They are way better, "bork, bork, bork!"


Swedish Meatballs

Serves 4-6 as an entree.

Ingredients:

For the Meatballs
1, 1" thick slice of bread
Milk to soak the bread
1 1/2 lb ground meat (1/2 lb beef, 1/2 lb pork, 1/2 lb veal, or a combination) (I used 3/4 lb beef and 3/4 lb pork)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 cups beef stock

For the Gravy
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons dry Sherry
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions:
For the Meatballs
Soak the bread in enough milk to saturate it and let it soak a few minutes. While the bread soaks, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

Wring the liquid from the bread (discard the milk) and add it along with the remaining meatball ingredients (except for the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the 2 cups beef stock) in a large bowl or stand mixer and mix with your hands or mixer until the ingredients are well incorporated. Shape the meatballs into approximately 1" balls, and place on a large plate or baking sheet. (The meatballs can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to cook.) 

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a deep saute pan over medium/medium-high heat. Drop the meatballs into the bubbling butter and brown them on all sides. (Do not overcrowd! You should brown them in batches, setting them aside on a plate until all the meatballs are browned.) When all the meatballs are browned, return them to the pan and add the 2 cups beef stock, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. When done, remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and place them on a warm baking sheet and hold in a warm oven.

For the Gravy
Mix the sour cream, flour, dill, and Sherry in a medium bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the stock, 1/4 cup at a time, until fully incorporated. Make sure there are no lumps! Mix the sour cream mixture into the stock and continue to stir until thickened, just a few minutes. Taste and season with salt (if needed) and white pepper, to taste.

To serve, add the meatballs to the gravy and transfer to a platter or serving bowl. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

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