December 17, 2007

Svenska Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs)

Swedish Meatballs with Cranberries and Dilled Potatoes

Today, I'm writing about last night's dinner. A most delicious concoction called Svenska Köttbullar, or the ever-tasty, Swedish Meatballs. This the most well known name for the dish in the States, though as you can imagine, Scandinavian regional varieties abound, and even within the Swedish genre you will find multiple variations. I liken this phenomena to meatloaf. Meatloaf is meatloaf, but not all meatloaves are of the same ilk. One could ask...Are you of the ketchup variety meatloaf? or the brown gravy variety meatloaf? with or without chunks of onions and peppers? breadcrumbs or oatmeal? and on and on, ad infinitum, and most likely ad nauseum. However, I digress. I'm talking meatballs!

I've been wanting all things Christmas-y in keeping with the season, and Swedish Meatballs are a traditional Christmastime favorite in Scandinavian countries. Probably because they're darn tasty.

Anyway, this recipe makes wonderful, wonderful meatballs. A really good technique is to use your kitchenaid and let the paddle beat the meat mixture fluffy. I'm going to give you the basic recipe and tell you what I did, however, the recipe does allow for some improvisation.

For Meatballs:
2 lbs. ground meat. I used beef, pork and veal in equal thirds.
3 slices fresh bread. I used whole wheat.
6 oz. (3/4 c) milk. I used evaporated milk (ran out of milk!) and a splash of cream.
1 onion, minced and sweated in butter w/a pinch of salt
1 egg
sea salt
black pepper
1/4-1/2 t. fresh grated nutmeg
1/4-1/2 t. allspice (I also threw in 2 cloves and a cardamom pod..mmm)

For Gravy:
1/4 c. white flour
3 c. beef broth
1/4 c. cream. I used about 2 T.cream and 2 T. greek-style yogurt
chopped fresh dill

For Lingonberries and Substitutions a few ways:
Use store-bought Lingonberry jam
Simmer fresh lingonberries,cranberries or red currants until they start to burst, about 10 min and then add sugar to taste, and continue to cook until the sugar is dissolved.
Mix fresh lingonberries with sugar, about 1/2 c. per pound, and let sit for at least two hours and then use.
Just cover 1/2 c. dried sweetened cranberries in cold water, let soak while you are making the meatballs, and then microwave for a minute or two. The reconstitued berries (without the water) are wonderful on top of the meatballs.
Use red currant jam, or cranberry sauce

Tear the bread into pieces, and then soak the bread in the milk until absorbed. This can take 30 minutes, so in the meantime prep your onions. I used my kitchenaid to mix everything, so I gave the bread and milk a good beating first. Then I added the egg, onion, spices, gave it a whirl, and then added the meat and let it go until fluffiness achieved.
Easiest way I've found to form the balls, is to wet your hands and have go. It's the fastest in my oppinion. These aren't large meatballs, about walnut sized should do it.
Fry the meatballs in a little butter and then remove from the pan. Make a gravy with the pan-drippings, adding a bit of butter if you need too. If you need a step-by-step for gravy, then add the flour to the pan and stir until a nice golden brown. This is called a roux. This is a french term, so to pronounce just pretend the x isn't there. Then add your broth and stir or whisk until smooth. Lower the heat, add the dairy and the fresh dill and then add the meatballs back to the pan and simmer together until everything is nice and hot. Serve with the lingonberries or appropriate faux berry.

So what the heck is a lingonberry, anyway?
Good question. The latin name is Vaccinium vitis-idaea. It's the product of an evergreen, creeping shrub with a berry that is red, tart, and smaller than a cranberry. Found naturally in colder climes, this plant has more pseudonmyms than a romance novelist! It's called, just in English mind you, besides lingonberry, cowberry, red whortleberry, bog cranberry, alpine cranberry, red bilberry, lingberry, foxberry, mountain cranberry, northern mountain cranberry, whimberry, dry ground cranberry, rock cranberry, partridgeberry, and lowbush cranberry.