Swedish meatballs are so great to make from home. Using three types of meat for the meatballs and lingonberries in the sauce for a salty, and slightly sweet delicious creamy dish perfect for winter.
Meatballs!! Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas my husband and I make Swedish meatballs. It started with both of us wanting to learn more about Swedish/Nordic dishes and culture. My husband’s family is part Swedish and every once in a while, they will serve up a traditional Swedish dish and we decided we wanted to start attempting dishes of our own. We wanted to start with a dish that was fairly easy and we had heard of before. If there are any IKEA fans out there, then you probably have heard of or at least tried this type of meatball before. I love this recipe and I have changed a few things from the original recipe just as a personal preference. The inspiration for my recipe came in part from a food network recipe that I found using veal. This recipe intrigued me because it used 3 different types of meat and I knew that would deliver a delicious complex flavor compared to a meatball that only contained one type of meat. This recipe uses super easy ingredients. However, to get the best tasting meatballs, consider following some of my techniques listed within the post.
To get started, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a very large frying pan and add minced onion, sauté until the onion is translucent and set aside (the sautéed onion needs to be cool or even cold prior to adding them to the meat mixture – I actually place them in a bowl and place them in the fridge). Wipe any leftover grease out of the pan with a paper towel.
In a large mixing bowl add your three different types of meat, egg yolks and cream, salt, pepper and allspice (one note about the salt: I’ve found that the dish can get salty pretty quickly, so I start with 1 teaspoon of salt in the meatball mixture and then add salt to taste in later steps).
The bread for binding:
Add bread that has been sitting in milk and squeezed. I’ve tried a bunch of techniques and the best way for me is to grab a small bowl, add bread first and then slowly pour milk in until the bread soaks up all the milk and then set aside (doesn’t take much, just enough for the bread to get soaked). When you are ready to add the bread to the meat mixture, grab the bread and squeeze all the milk out as much as possible. The bread will become a dough like structure and that is okay. We need this bread to help bind the meatballs together and create a light texture when you eat the meatball.
Mixing everything together (wear gloves!):
Next tip: This one is from Alton brown, when mixing the ingredients together and when rolling into balls, make sure you wear gloves. The reason for this is to keep the meat as cold as possible, and if you use your bare hands, you will start to warm up the meatballs and could lose flavor due to the fat warming up before the meat is cooked. I recently doubled my own recipe for a party I hosted and actually put the meat back in the fridge for a while before taking the meat and forming the balls just to keep them as cold as possible before cooking. Now that we make this recipe every year we’ve started making the meatballs the night before and then placing the meatballs in the fridge overnight until an hour or so before we need to serve them.
Once the meat is mixed, take a tablespoon to use as a guide for your size of meatballs. These meatballs are much smaller than meatballs that I have made in the past for Italian or other dishes and you want to make sure you get them all the same size so that they will cook evenly. After you have all the meatballs formed, melt butter in sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the foam from the melted butter is gone, you can start with your first batch of meatballs. If you can help it, make sure the meatballs do not touch each other. This means that you will most likely have to do multiple iterations of cooking meatballs in the pan.
Once you are done browning all of the meatballs (est 2 minutes on each side or 4 minutes using tongs to roll them around) add them to a long baking dish and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes (meatballs should have an internal temp of 165 degrees). Make sure you save the pan drippings for the next step.
Make a roux:
While the meatballs are cooking in the oven, you can start on my favorite part, THE SAUCE, yummy!!! Using the pan drippings from the meatballs, and keeping the heat the same, add 2 tablespoons of butter. If you have a fat separator, go ahead and remove the fat for a healthier meatball. I generally leave everything in though, just because it reduces one step for me and also because I only make this dish once a year and I like keeping all of the flavor for my sauce. It adds an extra richness to this special dish.
Once the butter has melted add your flour slowly (quick tip: I saw this on a good eats episode, sift in the flour to reduce clumps in the sauce) and whisk in until combined with melted butter. When the mixture starts to bubble and looks thin, reduce the heat to simmer and cut back on the whisking. Let it cook for about 2 minutes stirring occasionally, should be much thicker.
Slowly Pour in beef broth while constantly whisking and watch for the liquid to reduce and thicken (est. 15 to 20 min), add salt and pepper to taste.
(Quick tip: fight the urge to add more flour. If you add more flour, it will eventually turn into a gelatinous gravy that is just not appetizing and ruin the flour to drippings ratio. My husband found this out the hard way one year.) However, if somehow you are struggling with this step and all you see if liquid, add 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch and 2 or 3 tablespoons of the liquid (butter, flour, broth liquid) in a separate bowl and mix really well. Add your slurry (cornstarch+liquid) back to the pan, raise heat until you see it bubble and then go back to the simmer while whisking (essentially doing the process over but with cornstarch-cornstarch will not change the flavor in anyway).
Delicious Swedish meatball sauce!:
Once your sauce has thickened to a desired consistency, lower the heat and add lingonberries and cream. Add meatballs back to the sauce and coat evenly. Since I usually make this for a large party or family gathering, I also make two bags of buttered egg noodles on the side. It makes the food go further and the noodles just soak up any leftover sauce and makes for the perfect winter meal. Add parsley to garnish.