A couple weeks ago my family and I took a pilgrimage to IKEA to search for a “big girl” bed for my 3-year old. About 2½ hours into what was supposed to be a quick trip, we all started to show signs of hunger-induced crankiness (hangriness), so we stopped for lunch at the little bistro conveniently located in the center of the store. My husband and daughter split an order of chicken tenders (yawn), while I chose to splurge on a ginormous pile of meatballs (hey, when in Sweeden…). Just as I was tucking into my lunch, my daughter asked for a bite and before I knew it, she had finished the entire plate. Irritated but inspired, I decided that I would make my own meatballs for dinner later that week.
When we got home, I pulled out my old recipe and was disappointed to discover that I had once pan-fried my meatballs. Since I’m always looking for healthy alternatives to delicious food, I decided to conduct a side-by-side comparison of my original fried meatball recipe against the same meatball only baked. And guess what? I liked them even better! So with that, I threw the rest of the meatballs into the oven (all 75 of them), baked them to a golden perfection, then spent the next two hours styling and photographing them (seriously, making meatballs look sexy is harder than it sounds). Feeling totally pleased with my brilliant self, I sat down at my computer to send my awesomeness out into the interwebs to share with all of you. But instead, with a teeny-tiny brainfart and one errant click of the mouse, I deleted the entire file containing every photo I had taken over the past few days. Poof! Just like Keyser Söze, they were gone. As I sat there, staring at my blank computer screen going through the five stages of grief, I felt numb. I would have to start over. I would have to make 75 more meatballs and take a million more photos. I was completely overwhelmed, until I realized that I would get to eat 75 more meatballs, and suddenly my day began to brighten. It was a daunting task, but I felt up to it. So in the past week-and-a-half I have consumed more than my body weight in meatballs, and although I’m not actually Swedish, I somehow feel that I should be granted honorary citizenship for this culinary feat.
Makes about 75 meatballs (which is a great amount to serve at a party, but can be a bit much for a family dinner, in which case you can either halve the recipe or make an entire batch and freeze what you don’t use for future consumption. Freezing instructions at the end of this post.)
For the meatballs:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb. ground beef (15-20% fat)
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 small French baguette (or 3-4 slices of white bread)
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp allspice
For the gravy:
- pan drippings from the meatballs
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups beef stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
- 2 Tbsp sour cream
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
In a heavy skillet set over medium-high heat, add olive oil and onion and sauté until the onion becomes soft and starts to look translucent. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and allow to cool slightly. (Set skillet aside to use for the gravy.)
Scoop a rounded tablespoon of mixture and roll into a ball between the palm of your hands.*At this point meatballs can either be baked, stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, or frozen for up to 3 months (see freezing instructions at the end of this post).
Bake for 15 minutes, rotating baking sheets from the top to the bottom rack halfway through. Transfer cooked meatballs (their should be no pink left in the middle) to a cooling rack lined with 2 layers of paper towels. Pour pan dripping into the reserved skillet. Repeat with remaining meat mixture, pouring off pan drippings between each batch.
For the gravy:
In reserved skillet, add butter to the pan drippings and set over medium-high heat. Once butter melts and starts to bubble, add flour and whisk until thick and creamy. Add stock and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Add sour cream and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper and pour over meatballs.
Sidekick: Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with gravy and a dollop of lingonberry jam.*Note: Lingonberry jam can be found in most large grocery stores, located with the other jams and jellies.
1) Line a baking pan with wax paper and place uncooked meatballs in a single layer (not touching) on the wax paper. Cover and place in the freezer until meatballs are frozen through, about 2 hours.
2) Remove pan from freezer and place meatballs in a resealable freezer bag and store in freezer for up to 3 months.
3) When you’re ready to bake your meatballs, remove them from the freezer, place meatballs directly on a baking sheet with sides, and cook per baking instructions above.