Friday, December 17, 2010

Sort-of Swedish Meatballs

Once upon a time, a long time ago in an apartment just across town, I attempted to make meatballs for the first time.  I didn't have a recipe. I had a package of ground beef and a friend with an idea for dinner by my side.  We rolled the meat into balls and put them in a hot frying pan.  We stood there, poking at the meatballs, wondering how in the world would we know when they were done?

Then I rolled one, and it was burned. Then another and another, all burned. We laughed at our mistake and tried to eat the unburned half of the meatballs with spaghetti sauce from a jar and slightly overcooked pasta.

But it was still OK.  I had to learn somehow.  Cooking is about doing it.  Pick something, come up with a way to cook it, then give it a taste.

Since then, I have figured out how to cook meatballs without burning them into little briquettes. I got a recipe from a real cookbook and tried it. Then I made it again with a little change.  Then again with another little change. Over and over until I found something I liked that I could recreate regularly.

I have mentioned that I'm allergic to mushrooms, so eating out has a few disadvantages.  I'm wary of anything with sauce. I have to make those kinds of things at home to be safe. Swedish meatballs is one of those questionable dishes. Are they sneaking mushrooms in? Some places do, some don't.

I called this recipe "Sort-Of Swedish" for a reason. I'm not following a traditional recipe all that well. I don't want nutmeg in my meatballs.  I like garlic salt so I add that. Sometimes, they brown the meatballs and then simmer them in beef stock or some other liquid.  I don't do that. So to be honest and fair, I have taken a few liberties that suits me and my family. But that is what cooking is all about. Make what you like. 

So try it out. Eat it. Tweak it. Enjoy your creation.


Ingredients for meatballs
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (garlic herb is good)
1/4 cup milk
1 lb ground beef
1 shallot, finely minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
black pepper, salt, and garlic salt to taste

Ingredients for gravy
1 shallot, minced
3 Tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
black pepper, salt, seasoned salt to taste

Method
1. Combine egg, bread crumbs, and the 1/4 cup milk. Mix until uniform.  Add the meat, one minced shallot, and season with ground black pepper and garlic salt to taste. Use your hands to thoroughly mix.


2. Using damp hands, roll into balls about walnut size.


3. Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil and 1 T. butter until sizzling.  Add the meatballs. I like to start in one area of the pan and work clockwise around the outer edge then into the center.  Usually by the time all the balls are in the pan, I start turning the first ones, working in the same order as they were placed.


4. Cook the meatballs until they are evenly browned and pink juices no longer ooze out when you press down on the meatball. Don't smash them, just a light poke will do to test them.  Transfer finished balls to a warm serving plate and cover with foil, or place the entire plate in a warm oven while you make the pan gravy.

5.  Using the same pan and the meatball drippings, add the other minced shallot.  If your pan is dry, add some extra butter, 1 or 2 Tablespoons.  Cook shallots until they begin to brown and soften.

6. Add the flour and mix well. Let the mixture cook about 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Add the milk and bouillon granules. Stir or whisk constantly while you bring it up to a low boil. Simmer until thickened to your liking.  Taste to check the seasoning. You may want to add additional salt and pepper.

8. Serve with egg noodles cooked according to package instructions.  I like to make a little heap of noodles, add 4 or 5 meatballs and pour the gravy over it all.