Thursday, 1 January 2015

Swedish Meatballs

Growing up, my family had something of a New Year's Eve tradition. It involved a lot of hors d'oeuvres and finger foods. Basically, my mom would make up a veggie tray (and maybe a fruit tray or a fruit salad as well) and we'd cook up a bunch of those prepared frozen appetizers and set up a New Year's buffet for dinner. It generally wasn't terribly healthy (aside from the fruit and veg), but it was a lot of fun!

I didn't get any frozen hors d'oeuvres to cook up for New Year's this year, but suddenly this evening, I started getting wistful. Swedish meatballs weren't really a fixture of the New Year's buffets of my childhood, but I decided that I wanted to give them a try anyway. There are no shortage of recipes posted online and I even had all the ingredients on hand already!

Swedish Meatballs
From Damn Delicious
2 Tbsp. olive oil or butter
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. allspice berries, ground
1 tsp. black peppercorns, ground
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt, to taste

1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. beef broth
3/4 c. sour cream
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Cook the onion in 1 Tbsp. of the oil/butter until translucent and softened. (I actually used bacon fat for this step since I still had some left over from making my bacon cupcakes.)
2. In a large bowl, combine all the remaining meatball ingredients with the onions. Mix until well-blended.
3. Form into small meatballs and cook, in batches, in the remaining oil/butter.
4. Remove meatballs from the pan with a slotted spoon and add the butter for the gravy.
5. Once the butter is melted, sprinkle in the flour and stir to create a uniform mix. Continue to stir over medium-low heat until a golden roux is formed. Let it cook a little more if you'd like a darker gravy. (I stopped mine a little too soon.)
6. Once the roux has reached the desired colour, begin gradually adding the beef broth. Increase heat to medium and continue to stir until the gravy thickens and becomes smooth and uniform again.
7. Stir in the sour cream, salt, pepper, and parsley. (I only had dried parsley on hand, but definitely use fresh if it's available.)

I generally halve the amount of salt stated in recipes and find that I'm perfectly happy with that. When a recipe says to add additional salt "to taste", I generally find that I don't need to add any at all. I figured that approach would serve me find here. Especially since the bacon fat was a bit salty. In this case though, I actually felt that the finished dish could've used that extra hit of salt.

The meatballs tasted great, but a pinch of salt probably wouldn't've gone amiss. And in the sauce, it tasted like there were flavours roiling just below the surface but unable to express themselves. I got the sense that just a dash of extra salt would've really brought them into their own and let them shine. I think I'll add ~1/4 tsp. of coarse sea salt to the leftovers in the pot and see how that goes. (I tried adding a dash of Worcestershire sauce to the plate of meatballs and noodles I just had, but the flavour of the Worcestershire just kind of overpowered everything else. I think straight-up salt is the way to go here.)

The meatballs and gravy are good served over rotini. I think they'd be even better heaped onto a big, steaming plate of egg noodles. But what I really think would make this dish is peas! I think adding about two cups of lovely, sweet green peas to the gravy right at the end and letting them cook just a little bit would be absolutely phenomenal. The meatballs and the gravy are both good, but they're practically crying out for peas! (Plus, having something green in there makes it healthy, right?)

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