Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)

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I have always loved food, and loved to bake from a young age, but I didn’t fall in love with cooking until my early 20’s. I have been having fun in the kitchen for about a decade now. Swedish meatballs are one of the meals I have made from the beginning. In our early marriage David and I would frequent Ikea to shop for things to furnish our apartment, and I have to say I love those little Swedish meatballs they serve in the Ikea café. Not to sound boastful or anything, but these freshly homemade meatballs are better than anything you can find at Swedish furniture stores. They come from another cookbook I’ve had from the beginning, and one of the best International cookbooks in my opinion, The Best International Recipe. Make sure to serve with lingonberries. It’s a staple! You can find jars of them at Ikea in the marketplace or at well stocked groceries. (The flavor combo is somewhat similar to turkey and cranberries.)

slightly adapted from: The Best International Recipe

serves: 4 to 6

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2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread
¼ cup heavy cream
8 ounces (85 percent lean) ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
1 large egg yolk
1 small onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
salt and ground black pepper
vegetable oil

sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 bay leaves
½ cup heavy cream
8 ounces of mushrooms sliced and browned in butter (optional)
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon (sometimes I do just a squeeze, if it needs it)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
salt and ground black pepper

For the meatballs: In a large bowl, mash the bread and cream together to form a smooth paste. Add the ground meats, egg yolk, onion, nutmeg, allspice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and mix until uniform.

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Shape the mixture into 1-inch round meatballs (1 generous tablespoon per meatball; you should have about 30 meatballs).

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Measure ¼ inch of oil into a 10-12 inch saute pan and heat over medium-high heat; test the temperature of the oil with the edge of a meatball. When the oil sizzles, add the meatballs in a single layer and fry, turning as needed, until lightly browned on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer the browned meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

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for the sauce: Discard the oil in the pan but leave behind any brown bits. Add the butter and melt over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, sugar, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the cream, mushrooms (if using), and meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

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Off the heat, discard the bay leaves, stir in the lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve atop a bed of steamed white rice or mashed potatoes and a dollop of lingonberries.

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