Having just emerged from my Thanksgiving food coma, I am back on track. First, a huge thanks to my (beautiful, blonde and Swedish) childhood friend, Mary, for her thorough consultation on Swedish recipes. Mary graciously and generously offered up a list of dishes her grandmother made, and from it, I picked what I suspect is the most often cooked: Svenska Köttbullar, Swedish Meatballs. I know, I know, I typically like to venture out to the unknown, but I have an emotional attachment to these party favorites. See, my Mom, who is not blonde or Swedish, but IS beautiful, used to make these on a regular basis. I can still remember the retro-robin's-egg-blue enameled casserole dish she'd serve them...and oh, the sour cream...sweet, sweet sour cream sauce, topped with lovely frondy dill. So, while I know there must be hundreds of other more exciting or complex recipes that reflect Sweden's beautiful culture, I'm sticking with Svenska Köttbullar, because Mary recommended them, my Mom made them and hey, it's the Holiday Season, and they're a most awesome appetizer or main course!
Food in Sweden varies greatly by region. To the north, reindeer and game meats are enjoyed, while to the south, those with Sami roots rely on fresh vegetables. Meatballs, gravy, ligonberry jam, dairy, bread, stone-fruits, berries, beef, pork, seafood and fish are commonly eaten. Potatoes, mashed or boiled, soups and butter are also staple items.
The Basics: fresh bread crumbs, beef stock, butter, minced onion, egg yolks, and flour
Nutmeg, allspice and salt season the meat
Lean beef, veal and pork - you can omit the veal if you wish - but really, why would you?
Soak fresh bread crumbs in water for a minute or two
Use two spoons dipped in water or your hands (my preferred method) to shape the meatballs
Fry meatballs in butter until browned, then drain on paper towels
Make the gravy: mix flour into skillet, add broth, then whisk in sour cream
Lunch, dinner, cocktails, appetizer or snack
Svenska Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs) - Recipe Adapted from the Joy of Cooking
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced onions
2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup water
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1/2 pound lean ground veal
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups beef stock
Freshly chopped dill for garnish
In a small, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add the onions and saute, stirring often until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the bread crumbs and water. Let stand until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the reserved onions along with the beef, pork, veal, egg yolks, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice. Beat on low speed until smooth. Turn the mixer to high speed and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Using 2 spoons (or your hands - my preferred method) dipped in cold water, shape the meat into 1-inch balls.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Cook the meatballs in batches of about 15 to 20 at a time and brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towels before removing to a warmed serving platter. Cover to keep warm. When all the meatballs are cooked, reduce the heat to low and add the flour to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Slowly add the beef stock. Whisk in the sour cream. Cook, whisking, until the gravy is thick and smooth. Strain, if desired. Pour the gravy over the meatballs and serve hot, garnished with dill.
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