Back in the 1800s, when Swedish immigrants were settling areas of the West and Midwest, they surely had no idea that their Old World meatball recipes would someday become standard appetizer fare at events ranging from art openings to football parties.
But there’s a perfectly good reason it happened, Swedish meatballs kick ass. It’s hard to screw them up, everyone loves them, and you can keep a batch of them on a hot plate for hours on end and they only taste better as time goes by.
What’s more, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat them with toothpicks. What more could a person ask for?
18 as an appetizer, 4-8 as a main course
1 cup panko or other dry bread crumbs
1-1/4cups cream, divided
1-1/2 lbs ground game meal (80 percent lean meat, 20 percent pork fatback)
1/4 cup grated onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 egg beaten
5 tbsp unsalted butter divided
3 tbsp flour
2 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Lingonberry jam (or substitute red currant jelly)
Tip: Making This Dish for a Party
When making this for a party, slop before adding the final 1 cup cream to the thickened gravy I hold everything covered at room temp (no more than 2 hours) until my guests arrive. Then I heat up the sauce, mix in the cream, and continue as described in the recipe.
- In a medium bowl, combine the panko and 1 cup cream. Stir and set aside to soak.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, onion, garlic, allspice, white pepper, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and egg and mix with your hands. Add the soaked bread crumbs along with the soaking liquid if there’s any left.
- With wet hands, form small meatballs about 1 inch in diameter and lay out on parchment lined baking sheets.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and melt 2-1/2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the meatballs in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook, turning occasionally, 8-10 minutes per batch, until browned and cooked through. Remove the cooked meatballs to a plate and cook the remaining meatballs. Set the meatballs aside.
- Add the remaining 2-1/2 tablespoons butter to the pan and melt. Add the flour and stir to form a roux. Add the beef broth, bay leaf, and thyme and whisk over medium-high heat until it thickens. Reduce the heat and whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Return the meatballs to the pan (do this in batches if you need to) and coat with the sauce. Warm through. Transfer to a serving platter.
- Serve with lingonberry jam on the side and toothpicks.