Swedish meatballs are about the most perfect thing you could make on a cold, wet evening, whether you’re in Scandinavia or anywhere else a comforting, cozy meal will do your body good.
To clarify: What we call Swedish meatballs here in the United States are made all over Scandinavia, in myriad ways.
Most recipes use a combination of beef and pork: the beef for chew, the pork for flavor and richness. I like a ratio of 50/50, but feel free to change that to suit your tastes. And note that many people substitute veal for the pork. You could probably even try ground turkey.
As for seasonings, onions, either raw or sautéed, are often added to the meat, along with warming spices like allspice, nutmeg and ginger.
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Another important ingredient is bread crumbs in milk, which give the meatballs an incredible tenderness. I used panko, which I think provides a fluffier texture than more finely ground dried bread crumbs. Or you could use a diced slice of soft sandwich bread if that’s more convenient.
As anyone who has ever bought a Billy bookcase at IKEA is likely to know, Swedish meatballs are incomplete without a pool of creamy gravy. Here, I’ve seasoned the gravy with brandy for complexity and mustard for tang. If you’ve still got that jar of lingonberry jam in the refrigerator from your last bookcase-buying trip, a spoonful adds a touch of sweetness and some welcome color to the plate.
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup warm milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1 tablespoon brandy
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef or chicken broth, low-sodium or homemade
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1/2 teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper and ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger and grated nutmeg
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed for drizzling
In a medium bowl, soak bread crumbs in warm milk while you prepare the onions.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Stir in onions and a pinch of salt and cook until pale golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer half the onions to a large bowl and set aside.
Prepare sauce: Add brandy to skillet with onions and ignite with a long match or igniter (or if you’re using a gas stove, just swirl pan, brandy should catch fire). Let flame die down, then add the remaining butter, letting it melt. Sprinkle in flour. Sauté until flour browns, about 3 minutes. Whisk in broth, cream and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Simmer, whisking, until reduced to a sauce, about 5 minutes. Add mustard, if you like, and season with more salt, if needed.
To large bowl with onion, add remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, soaked bread crumbs, beef, pork, eggs, garlic, pepper, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Roll into 1-inch balls (about 2 tablespoons each), placing them on one or two rimmed baking sheets as you go.
Heat broiler. Drizzle meatballs with oil. Broil meatballs, switching pans’ positions if using more than one so they both get close to the broiler, until well browned all over, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with gravy.
Yield: 4 dozen meatballs