Monday, October 31, 2011

Mystery Monday: The Girl Who Didn't Eat Swedish Meatballs

I waited patiently throughout all three enormous volumes of the "Girl Who" trilogy for Swedish meatballs. No luck. I had to laugh when the crazy old government agent, who plays a pivotal role in the final book, was silently disappointed when a young whippersnapper went on a lunch run and returned with sushi. He would have much preferred some good old-fashioned Swedish meatballs. Me too.
I have been wanting to make Swedish meatballs for a few years. I bookmarked a recipe from Gourmet's book club but never got around to making it. When I mentioned that I had been toying with the idea of making them for my Mystery Monday series, my boyfriend gave his full and undivided encouragement. And, after eating our second day's worth of boiled potatoes, meatballs with brown sauce, and homemade tart cranberry-sauce, he is still very enthusiastic. They were (and still are) very tasty.

Making these meatballs does take some patience, but it does make enough for either a big group or several meals. First and foremost, I would not recommend making the meatballs tiny like I did. A "walnut" is not a "Tablespoon." Having fewer meatballs to brown would have saved a lot of time and a little bit of stress. Also, don't despair (as I may have), if the sauce doesn't look perfectly smooth. It's rustic and homemade (i.e., not from Ikea). The most important thing is that it tastes good.

Swedish (ok fine, Finnish) Meatballs
Adapted from Gourmet, who sourced it from Falling Cloudberries

Serves 6 (or two people, three times)

3 slices sandwich bread, crust removed
2/3 cups milk
2 1/4 lb mixed ground pork and beef
1 large egg
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream

Boiled potatoes (boil waxy potatoes in salted for 20-40 minutes or until done)
Lingonberry or cranberry jam (recipe forthcoming)

Soak the crustless bread in the milk, and set aside while you chop the onion. One the bread has absorbed all of the milk and is very soft, mix it with the meat, egg, onion, allspice, salt, pepper. Knead together well (don't worry about over-handling the meat). Form into small balls about the size of walnuts, rolling them between damp palms so that they are compact and won't fall apart when cooking.

Heat 2 Tablespoons butter with the olive oil in a nonstick skillet (I just used my Le Creuset). Fry the meatballs in batches, turning once during cooking so that they are browned on two sides. Be careful not to burn the butter. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a heavy bottomed saucepan with any onion that is on the bottom of the skillet and continue with the next batch (I set mine aside on a plate, then returned them to the Le Creuset later).

Once all of the meatballs are browned and set aside, sprinkle flour into the skillet and mix with a wooden spoon until it is smooth. Add the remaining butter and let it melt. Continue cooking, stirring almost continuously until it is a golden color. Remove the pan from the heat and very slowly pour in 2 cups of hot water, stand back a bit (it can splatter) then return the pan to the heat. Stir in the sour cream and mix well, then carefully pour over the meatballs (in my case, I returned the meatballs to the sauce). Season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook, covered, over very low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until you have a thick, creamy sauce with soft meatballs to serve with berry jam and boiled potatoes. (I reduced my sauce a little further after removing the meatballs, I just simmered it for a little longer to thicken it).
Dig into this cold-weather comfort food! I for one am proud that I finally conquered both a recipe and a series that I had been intending to get around to for a looong time. It may have taken several years, but it was still worth it.

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