Saturday, October 22, 2016

Swedish Meatballs over Buttered Noodles

The national dish of Sweden, and re-popularized by retailer Ikea, these little meatballs in a creamy sauce are popular on buffets and served as a main dish.

Julian's Swedish Meatballs over Buttered Noodles
If you haven't had them before, these are very different from Italian meatballs which are larger and spicier. When I was a child in the 1950-60's every American housewife showcased these at their holiday party buffet. Since then they had gone out of fashion, and you rarely saw them at parties or served at dinner. However with the introduction of Ikea into the United States, that has now changed.

Ikea estimates that it sells 150 million Swedish meatballs every year. The dish was the brainchild of Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, who worried that customers would get hungry while browsing his massive stores. His team came up with a menu for a food department. It had to be cheap and it had to be Swedish. Meatballs were the answer.

In Sweden, the meatballs are made with ground beef or a mix of ground beef, pork and sometimes veal, including bread crumbs sometimes soaked in milk, finely chopped fried onions and all spice. A sauce made of broth, pan drippings and sour cream is common. The small (1 inch round) Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with sauce, boiled potatoes or noodles, a condiment of lingonberry jam, and sometimes fresh pickled cucumber.

Below I give you my rendition, which I'm serving as a main course over buttered egg noodles. You can just as easily use them on a holiday buffet without the noodles. In my recipe below I include mushrooms and make the sauce with some white wine. Neither are traditional and you can omit these if you prefer. Both enhance the flavor. This is not a quick dish to prepare, as it usually takes me nearly two hours. You can however, prepare them a day in advance and reheat at serving time. My photos in this recipe show a larger batch. The below ingredients should make about 24 meatballs.

Forming the meatballs.

For the Meatballs
2-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Browning on all sides.
For the Sauce
8 ounces slices white button mushrooms (optional)
1/3 cup white wine (optional, substitute chicken broth)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth
3/4 cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Egg noodles (1 pound)
4 tablespoons butter

Fresh chopped parsley leaves to garnish


Meatballs:  Heat half the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent. About 3-4 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, ground pork, bread crumbs, egg yolks, allspice, nutmeg and cooked onion. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Mix until well combined, using your hands or a large spoon. Use a small scoop to gather the meat mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. The finished meatball should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet or Dutch oven and brown meatballs on all sides. This is done in batches so as not to overcrowd the skillet and allow for proper browning. Each batch will take about 5 minutes to brown on all sides. Transfer cooked meatballs to a bowl or platter. They need not be cooked completely through as they will cook again in the sauce.

Sauce: If using the mushrooms, add them to the skillet/Dutch oven and cook stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes until they begin to tenderize. Deglaze the pan with white wine or chicken stock, scraping up any brown bits and mixing with the optional mushrooms. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the butter to the skillet and stir until melted. Stir in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in beef broth and cook, stirring constantly until the sauce is lightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in sour cream, taste and season as needed with additional salt and pepper.

Combine the meatballs with the sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through and thickened, about 10 minutes over medium heat. If you desire a thicker sauce, make a slurry of a small amount of flour and water and stir in a little at a time until the desired thickness is reached.

While the meatballs cook in the sauce, boil the egg noodles. When tender, drain and toss with butter. Place noodles in serving dishes and top with the meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Cooking in the sour cream sauce.

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