Ahhhh… meatballs. Who doesn’t love a wee round wad of savory chopped steak? Well – vegetarians and vegans, I suppose. But if you’re an omnivore like me, then perhaps you too enjoy mouthfuls of meat bathed in silky brown creamy gravy. If so, then this is the meal for you: meat and potatoes, fancified. I was inspired by this picture, which is arguably more elegant and sophisticated and professional than mine, but I dare say my dinner was at least just as delicious. I also added pearl onions – simply boiled, to release their natural sweetness – and some roasted brussels sprouts, which browned a little more than I wanted, but were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Wonderballs of pork, lamb, and veal, browned in butter, simmered in sauce, served with a coda of smooth whipped potatoes, a sprinkling of garden chives, and playing marbles with buds of brussels and teardrops of onions: a spherical, magical, delectable supper.
Swedish Meatballs, Brussels Sprouts, and Pearl Onions
4 medium/small yukon gold potatoes (about 1 lb)
6 pearl boiling onions
12 small brussels sprouts
1/2lb each ground lamb, ground veal, and ground pork
1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 slices white bread
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground white pepper
8 oz half & half – divided
2 cups concentrated beef stock
sour cream (about 4 oz)
1/2 stick butter – divided
sea salt and cracked black pepper
I start by boiling my spuds in salted water in a large saucepan, and my onions in salted water in a small saucepan – both set on my back burners. The onions need about 20 minutes; the potatoes more like 40 – or until they are very easily pierced with a fork.
I dice my white onion and mince my garlic, before sweating them in 1 tbs of melted butter in my largest frying pan. I season them with salt and pepper, and cook them over medium heat until fragrant and just translucent throughout. I remove this from the heat, and allow to cool.
… then I add my cooled down onion/garlic mix…
… then, using my hands and the lightest touch possible (the more I handle the meat, the more grainy it will become), I blend all the contents of the bowl thoroughly. The final product is a disgusting wet pink and white meatwad.
Along with my marbles of meat, I wanted the much maligned but equally spherical brussels sprout. I’d hoped it would add a flash of green to the plate, but I also wanted crunch (since my meatballs and potatoes and onions would be tender and creamy) — so I decided to roast them. In retrospect, I should have steamed them first to capture the green, then roast them quickly to crisp the outer leaves – since the results of the choice I made resulted in very brown sprouts, but the flavor was just right regardless.
I trimmed their white wedge roots out, tossed them in an excellent EVOO, seasoned them with sea salt and pepper, and spilled them out on a baking sheet before putting them in my 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes to roast. Just enough time to…
… fry up my meatballs in batches in 2 tbs of hot browned butter. I let each meatball brown fully on the 1st side I lay it on, then, using tongs, I flip each one over, allowing it to brown fully on that edge, before rolling them all in circles with the heat to maintain their roughly spherical shapes.
See? After each meatball is fully cooked, but still tender inside, I pull them off the heat and set them on a waiting plate lined with tin foil. I admit, a couple of my first attempts fell apart. And I also admit, we enjoyed taste-testing those mistakes.
Using the hot butter left in the pan, I add about 2 tbs of flour to the fat, whisking over high heat to brown and thicken to roux. I then add my concentrated beef stock (this is a delightful demi-glace I splurged on at Whole Foods), continuing to whisk well, scraping up all the brown meaty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. I allow this to simmer for about 3-4 minutes.
Sour cream whisked into this rich beef sauce adds just the right tang and creaminess one wants from Swedish meatballs. Ikea’s saucepack is really tasty – I admit it – but I wanted to make this from scratch tonight (if you forgive the purchased demi-glace), and I’m glad I did – this was a far more honest and hearty a flavor. Sorry about the splatter, Clayton — I’ll fetch you some Clorox wipes from the closet if you need a refill. I set my meatballs, and my boiled, peeled, and trimmed pearl onions into the pan, dousing them with ladles of sauce, allowing everything to heat through to steaming and screaming to be supped.
Using the last of my half and half and butter, I first mash then whip my potatoes into a creamy smooth puree that I pipe into a curlicue onto my plate with a modified zipper bag. My meatballs and onions I lay lovingly spooning my spuds, and I blanket the whole family of flavors with my smooth creamy rich and silky light brown gravy. Finally, I dot the plate with crisp roasted sprouts, sprinkled with salt and hiding tender green centers. In the simple pleasures branch of gastronomy’s genealogy, meatballs have a pedigree all their own — what Sweden has to do with it, I’m not entirely sure, but I thank them for their take on these morsels of delight. I hope they like what Lolita did to their tradition.