Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Swedish Meatballs

These meatballs are a cross between the Swedish meatballs I remember eating as a kid and the frikadeller served at the Harbor View in Pepin, Wisconsin. I just call them Swedish Meatballs because, well ... it rolls off the tongue easier, haha.

The meatballs start with ground meat. I usually use ground beef for this, but I had ground pork in the fridge so I used it instead.

Gotta roll with the punches.

Next are the onions. Instead of finely chopping them or sending them through the food processor, I grated them.

I do the same to the garlic.

Here's the meat with my grated onions and garlic.
Then, probably to the chagrin of Scandinavian grandmas everywhere, I add in some breadcrumbs.

If I were really Scandinavian, I would have soaked some bread in milk and then added it. But I'm Asian so I use panko :P

I do add half and half, though.

Next are the spices that give these meatballs their special flavor. The first one is nutmeg--freshly ground nutmeg if you've got it.
I also add cardamom. If you've never smelled cardamom, it has a pretty distinctive smell and taste. The Harbor View puts it in their meatballs, and that's one of the things that make them so special, so I do it too.

Finally, crack an egg. This is the "binder' and will keep your meatballs together.

Mix everything together and then shape into spheres. Flatten them down into pucks if you want (which is another Scandinavian grandma thing to do.) Sorry, no pics of this--it's hard to roll meatballs and take pictures at the same time ;)

While you're rolling the meatballs, you can start melting a big hunk of butter in with a little olive oil.

Doesn't it look like it's having fun?

Gently drop your meatballs into the pan. Butter burns hurt!

Be sure not to crowd the pan. Make sure there's lots of space between all the meatballs, or you won't get that yummy crust on the outside. They'll just poach in the butter (which, okay, doesn't sound all bad, but come on--caramelized meat...)

Carefully flip them when they start getting golden brown. They're pretty delicate--in retrospect, smushing them into granny pucks probably would have been a better idea than leaving them round.

See? This is why I'm here. To make the mistakes first and then advise you on what not to do ;)

After your meatballs are browned on all sides, take them out and leave them in a bowl for later.

Don't worry that they're not cooked all the way through. You just want color on the outside. They'll be cooking more later on.

Now, you should be left with a nice pool of drippings from your meatballs.

Sprinkle in some flour to make a roux.

I know many people are put off by making a roux (ROOOOO). Honestly--it is not a big deal. As long as you stir the flour in thoroughly (and there's enough fat to soak up the flour) and you add your liquid slowly, there should be no problems. It's not hard at all. Here, I'll show you.

Use a spoon or a whisk and combine the flour and fat.

Next, slowly pour your broth into the pan. I like to add about a half a cup, let the roux absorb it, and then add the rest.

Here it is after the broth is absorbed. See? How easy was that?

You're not done, though. To make these the meatballs of my childhood, you'll need a big ol' spoonful of sour cream. Stir it in thoroughly until it's melted into the gravy.

Now for the dill. I love fresh dill (and it goes so beautifully with these meatballs!) but ... well ... our cat ate our dill. I left it out and he chewed on it for a while. So I was stuck with dried. It was not the same. Please, please, use fresh dill. And don't let your cat get it.

I also sprinkle in some more nutmeg and cardamom.

Once all your sauce ingredients (including fresh dill!) are in the pot, you can pour your meatballs back in.

Cover the pan and let your meatballs hot tub in the sauce. I let mine hang out for about half an hour.

The perfect amount of time to boil up some water, throw in some egg noodles, and drain them.

Pour your meatballs and sauce right over the noodles. Sprinkle with fresh dill if yours hasn't been gnawed on by a cat.

Recipe: Swedish Meatballs

1 lb. ground beef or pork
1/2 onion, grated
1 large clove garlic, grated
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/2 c. half and half or milk
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste

2 1/2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 c. flour
1 can beef broth

1/2 c. sour cream

1 tbsp. fresh dill (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Combine ground meat, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, half and half, cardamom, nutmeg, egg, and salt and pepper. Shape into meatballs; flatten slightly.

Melt butter and olive oil in large pan. Cook meatballs in pan over medium heat until outsides are golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Sprinkle in flour; stir or whisk until incorporated fully with the pan drippings.

Slowly pour in beef broth; whisk or stir vigerously until beef broth is fully absorbed. Allow gravy to bubble.

Add sour cream; stir until completely combined.

Add dill, cardamom, and nutmeg. Stir well.

Add meatballs back into pan. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Serve over egg noodles, sprinkle with fresh dill, and enjoy!


  1. I have seriously been wanting to get my hands on a good swedish meatball recipe. Everytime I've had anybody make it for me they used frozen meatballs - yuck. :)

  2. I hope you try it and like it! I know how frustrating that is, when you want to find a certain recipe and the only thing that comes up is boxed or premade! There's a time and place for shortcuts but sometimes you wanna make it from scratch.