23 September 2011

Swedish Meatballs

We were in week five of a kitchen renovation that the designer blithely assured us would take three weeks. We had just gotten to “functional kitchen” and we'd been eating at restaurants and from take-out containers so much that I just needed to cook, and I owed a meal (or twelve) to some friends.

Our new cabinets, counters and most of the appliances came from IKEA, so Swedish cuisine seemed appropriate, and I broke out my copy of Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine Marcus Samuelsson offers up a variety of modern dishes from his restaurant that are inspired by the food he learned to cook in his grandmother's kitchen. Naturally I went straight to the cliché of Swedish Meatballs.

I'm told that the Italian-American classic spaghetti and meatballs is an American invention, meant to cater to the meat loving Americans that the Italian immigrants wanted to attract to their restaurants. My guess is that my own Swedish-American ancestors were part of that crowd of carnivorous Americans. Chef Marcus Samuelsson assures us that these meatballs in lingonberry cream sauce make a weekly appearance on family tables in Sweden. They're not any more complicated than meatball simmered tomato sauce and served over pasta, so I hope you'll give them a try. If you don't have a Swedish population nearby you might need to take a trip to IKEA for the lingonberries, but everything else is standard grocery store fare. Try serving these with mashed potatoes the next time you crave something home-cooked.

Swedish Meatballs
adapted from Marcus Samuelsson's Aquavit
for the meatballs:
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 ½ lbs ground free-range beef
2 Tablespoons honey
1 large egg
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Combine the breadcrumbs and heavy cream in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté onions until softened. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the beef, onion, honey and egg and mix well with your hands. Season with salt and pepper. Add the bread crumbs and cream and mix well.
  4. Sprinkle some water on a large plate or platter. With wet hands, shape into balls about the size of a golf ball, you should get about 24 meatballs. Place formed balls on the moistened plate.
  5. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the meatballs in the skillet, in batches if necessary, crowding is not good for browning, and brown on all sides.
  6. Remove the browned, but not fully cooked meatballs from the skillet and set aside.
  7. Remove all but 1 Tablespoon of fat from the pan. The assemble the sauce.
for the sauce:
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup lingonberry preserves
2 Tablespoons pickle juice, preferably from a sweet pickle
  1. Return the skillet to the heat and add all ingredients for the sauce. Stir to combine.
  2. Bring the sauce to a bare simmer.
  3. Nestle the meatballs into the sauce and simmer for at least 10 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. If you're preparing other foods (like mashed potatoes, mmmm,) then set the skillet at the absolute lowest setting, put on a lid and ignore the whole thing until it's time to serve.


  1. I can attest that these were totally delicious!

  2. Yum. These look pretty awesome. Heavy cream? Bring it on.

  3. I've been reminded several times in the past couple of weeks that dairy fat just feels different in the mouth than vegetable fat does. And dairy and potatoes just go together like the Creator planned it that way.

  4. Oh, and this recipe leaves you with 1/4 cup of cream in your little half-pint carton. Just dump it in the potatoes.



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