Friday, September 10, 2010

Cooking for the Weekend: Swedish Meatballs

This will not be a typical weekend for our family. Saturday morning, The Girl is heading for Corpus Christi with her boyfriend and his parents—the kids are going to a concert in Corpus on Saturday night, a joint gift since their birthdays are just a week apart. They’ll be back on Sunday afternoon.  Meanwhile, the boyfriend’s younger brother will be hanging out with us while his family is elsewhere occupied. So my son already has big plans for this weekend: epic Pokémon battles, a movie marathon, a trip to Incredible Pizza.

In other words, there’s a testosterone storm a-brewin’.

So what I’m planning today is not a Saturday afternoon baking extravaganza but, instead, a Sunday evening Welcome Home dinner. When I mentioned that I was planning to make Swedish Meatballs this weekend, my daughter immediately said “But I’m not even going to be here!” (Just as I’m not allowed to make a pie that she won’t eat—unless, of course, I also make a pie that she will eat—I’m apparently not allowed to make Swedish Meatballs unless she’s going to be home to enjoy them.) I assured her that as long as long as she’s home by dinnertime on Sunday, we won’t have a problem.  

Some recipes for Swedish Meatballs call for a mixture of ground beef and ground pork, but I’m not a big fan of ground porkit tends to be dry, and in order for meatballs to stick together, a little goo is a good thing.  This is one of the rare occasions when I’ll use something other than extra-lean ground beef in a recipe.  The beef drippings end up in the gravy, and since I use evaporated 2% milk rather than whole milk or half-and-half or cream (which, again, many recipes recommend), I think everything balances out.  

But, as always, feel free follow your heart.  Or your stomach.  Or your doctor’s advice.


Swedish Meatballs


2 T. vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. each, salt and pepper
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 T. butter
3 T. flour
1 cup beef stock
1 can evaporated 2% milk (or whole milk, or half and half, or cream)


Heat 1 T. of the vegetable oil in a large skillet and sauté the chopped onion until it's softened, about 5 minutes. Set the skillet aside to let the onion cool. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, soak the breadcrumbs in the milk for 10 minutes.

Scrape the onions into the milk and bread mixture, but save the skillet—you'll need it for frying the meatballs and making the sauce. Add the ground beef, beaten egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg. The easiest way to combine these ingredients is to use your hands and squish everything together, but if you're averse to touching raw meat, use a wooden spoon. Cover this mixture with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for half an hour. (This is a very important step, so don't skip it--the beef mixture will be too squishy to handle if you don't give it time to chill. This is also why you want to use beef with a higher fat content, which will help the meatballs hold their shape.)

After the ground beef mixture has had time to set up, roll it into meatballs of about 1 inch in diameter. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Heat the remaining 1 T. of oil and 2 T. of butter in the skillet; fry the meatballs on all sides to brown, then remove them from the skillet and place them in a baking dish. Add the flour to the skillet, whisking to combine it with the beef drippings; slowly whisk in the beef stock, then the evaporated milk. Add more beef stock if the gravy seems too thick. Let the gravy boil for two or three minutes, then pour it over the meatballs and bake for 30 minutes.

I usually serve Swedish Meatballs over egg noodles, but mashed potatoes (or boiled and salted red potatoes) are a good choice on the side as well.

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