The region of Minnesota where I grew up is very Scandinavian. So much so that we had a significant number of exchange students every year from Norway or Sweden, and many people, like my grandma, still know how to speak Swedish. Not surprisingly, Swedish meatballs make an appearance at pretty much every family gathering, holiday, or church/community event in the area. Understanding a little more when I said previously that I probably ate them about once a week? I thought so.
Every Swedish-American family has their own version of this classic. If other families are anything like mine, they have several. My dad's is slightly different from my grandma's, which is slightly different than her (late) sister's (may she rest in peace with her delicious recipe that she wouldn't give up). No one in my family will give out their recipe, and all of the above-listed people swear they make the same recipe. Not so, says my taste buds. Once, I was lucky enough to get my dad to tell me how he makes his, only to discover that he wasn't exactly honest with me about the ingredients. Is anyone getting flashbacks to that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond? Or am I the only dork that's seen pretty much every episode of that show at least 3 or 4 times? I am? .... ok. I'll make my peace with that.
I've become convinced that every Swedish meatball recipe in my family will die with its maker. The best one already has. I've been left with no choice to create my own, and I'm determined to make it even better than the recipes they won't give up. And when I do, I'll hesitate before I give it to either my grandma or my dad. Yeah, I can be vindictive like that. But I won't, because I believe that good food should be shared. My family will thank me later.
I'm not sure if I've exactly come up with the perfect recipe, but this one's close. I did my best to remember what I did so I could write about it later. I think with a bit of tweaking, I'll be able to have a recipe far superior to my late great-aunt's. Sorry, Bertha. As much as I loved your meatballs, it had to happen one day.
Prep Time - 15 minutes
Cook Time - 45 min
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed
~1/2 - 2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp salt (be generous)
25 grinds freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (do not use the super lean kind)
1 TBSP butter
2 TBSP sherry
1 1/2 cup beef stock
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup half-and-half
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.
Place all ingredients into a large bowl, except for onion and vegetable oil. Grate the onion into the bowl (as in, use a cheese grater) and mix. I'm serious about the grating. You'll be sorry if you don't. Form into small-ish meatballs. Use a cookie scoop if you have to, but make them as round as you can.
Place them in the pan you've had heating up and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
Drain the oil from the pan. If there's any brown bits at the bottom of the pan, get rid of those too. You don't want them. These are not the yummy brown bits you have from when you fry chicken breasts.
Add the butter and melt. Once melted, add the sherry and chicken stock, to deglaze the pan. Whisk in the flour and cook until sauce thickens.
Add the half-and-half, Worcestershire and bay leaves. Keep whisking. Bring to a simmer, whisking often until thickened. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Remove pan from heat, add meatballs back to the pan. If do not have an oven-safe pan, transfer meatballs into a baking dish and then pour the sauce over the top. Cover. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Discard bay leaves before serving.
Serve this over egg noodles. You could do mashed potatoes instead, but that's not as good. Do egg noodles. You'll thank me later.
After careful consideration, I have decided to submit this recipe to this round of Homegrown Gourmet. It's my first submission. I'm so excited!