Swedish Meatballs / by Cynthia Raub

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swedish meatballs

My two daughters had preschool potlucks on consecutive days - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. What could I cook that would work for both mealtimes? I wanted to bring something that: I could cook in bulk, was not very costly, could be prepared in advance, and was easy for preschoolers and standing parents to eat. Swedish meatballs were perfect! They are bite-sized and dense, making them an easy to serve and eat finger food. Not to mention, they are a preschooler’s favorite color of food: brown (see: crackers, toast, peanut butter, chocolate…). To make things interesting, I decided to quadruple the recipe to have generous portions for the two preschool parties, enough to freeze for my family and a bag for Amy.

Notes: In this recipe, I decided to shallow fry the meatballs to keep their beautiful round shape intact. This method is not for everyone, or for every occasion, but I was happy with the results. Alternatively, you can bake the meatballs at 350 degrees for 18-24 minutes; either directly on a baking sheet/baking pan or on a wire rack, so the fat can drip down. There are pros and cons to shallow frying and baking, but a big pro of baking is that you can scrape the little fatty bits from the pan into the gravy to make it extra delicious!

Also, this recipe calls for sweated onions, but I decided to cook half of the onion and keep half of the onion raw. I liked how the cooked onion lent a small amount of sweetness in a bite, but I loved how the raw onion cut through the beef flavor. The allspice and nutmeg in this recipe were so subtle that I think these meatballs are highly adaptable to numerous uses and cuisines. The spices are traditional for Swedish meatballs, but the gravy is what made it so. One night, my husband threw a dozen frozen meatballs into a vegetable soup for dinner and the allspice and nutmeg were almost undetectable. Amy used them in a completely different way, too, in her Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Polenta.

Time: 1 hour
Servings: 30 2 oz meatballs, around 6 portions
Adapted from: Alton Brown, Swedish Meatball Recipe

For the Meatballs
3 cups of cubed white bread, crusts removed
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
1.5 pounds ground beef (I used 92% lean and 8% fat)
1.5 pounds ground pork
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 oz canola oil

For the Gravy
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
Splash of Worcestershire or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Parsley, finely chopped- optional for garnish
1/4 cup sour cream, optional, to finish the gravy

Place bread in a small bowl, pour milk over and mix, set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat. Add half of the onion (1/2 cup) and sweat until the onions are translucent and soft. Remove onions from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a stand mixer bowl, combine the bread and milk mixture, ground beef, pork, egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, raw onions, and cooked onions. Mix until very well combined and the meat has become sticky and homogenous. Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop, portion, and then roll each meatball with your hands and place on a sheet pan.

In a 12" straight edge saute pan, heat oil to 250 degrees. Add the meatballs in small batches and fry until golden brown on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to cooling rack with a slotted spoon or tongs.

In a medium saucepan, melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until foamy. Whisk in flour and cook until raw flour smell is gone and the mixture is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Once at a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk in a splash of soy sauce (or Worcestershire) and acid. Season with salt and white pepper. If you are feeling sassy, stir in 1/4 cup of sour cream to give the gravy a beautiful creamy look and tangy flavor.

Add meatballs to gravy and stir to coat. Simmer until meatballs are heated through. Garnish with chopped parsley!