Thursday, April 14, 2016

Last of the Cool Weather Cravings: Swedish Meatballs

I'm still trying to come down from our recent trip to Texas. The weather was beautiful and the wildflowers were everywhere. Austin is a great city and having my little family together really meant the world to me. All of these things together have me suffering from a serious bout of homesickness.

My malady has been made more serious by Colorado's unpredictable spring weather. Just about the time I think I can make it through, BAM! Here we go again. Wind, snow, rain, despair. OK, OK, I'll quite my complaining and make some lemonade out of lemons.

On days like these, there's really nothing I like better than cooking a casserole or a low and slow dish of some sort.  So when the dark clouds started rolling in, and the cold wind began to blow, I got hungry for something with gravy . . . and meatballs . . . and noodles. Swedish meatballs that is, and I'm not talking Ikea meatballs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking Ikea's little leatherette covered balls of brown stuff. They have their place I guess. I actually like the potatoes, gravy and lingonberries that accompany them most of all. Ideally, they'd be good, but unfortunately in my opinion, they just aren't satisfying.

To me, really good meatballs should start with lean meat (beef and pork) and finely chopped onions. Then they should be finished with beef stock and lots of fresh cream, and then they should be enjoyed by everyone with noodles or side by side with mashed potatoes. That's what I'm talking about.

So on this cold and rainy spring day (hopefully one of our last for the year) I made a big pot of Swedish meatballs and despite fighting the elements and my homesickness, it really turned the day around for me.

Swedish Meatballs

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (about 2 large slices of bread)
1/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium size onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 pound 90/10 ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 - 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 - 4 cups beef broth
1/4 - 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place breadcrumbs in a medium size bowl. Pour milk over the top and stir; set aside.

Place 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (11" - 12") skillet with deep sides. Set it over medium high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and saute for one minute longer; set aside.

Place the beef, pork, egg yolks, nutmeg, allspice, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the breadcrumb and onion mixtures. Stir with clean hands or a large spoon until all ingredients are combined.

Portion out meatballs by the heaping teaspoon and roll into balls.

Add the remaining butter and the oil into the same big skillet that has been wiped out with a paper towel. Heat over medium high. Melt the butter and oil together. Once it is sizzling, add the meatballs and cook until they are brown on all sides, transferring to a ovenproof dish and keeping warm in the preheated oven until all meatballs are done.

Once all meatballs are done, remove enough pan drippings so that you have about 3 - 4 tablespoons of drippings left in the skillet. Sprinkle the flour over the drippings, whisking as you do until you have a thick roux.

While continuing to whisk, slowly add the beef broth until you have a sauce the consistency of heavy cream. Bring mixture to a simmer, whisking all the while, and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the cream, reduce the heat and keep warm. At this point if the mixture becomes too thick add additional beef broth, cream or a little water until you reach the desired consistency. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Add meatballs to the sauce and serve immediately.

I admit that I neglected to count exactly how many meatballs this recipe will make but this will easily serve four to six hungry people.

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