Monday, September 24, 2012

Cook's Illustrated Swedish Meatballs - Great meatball flavor

Note:  I had to revise this post because, well, I was wrong.  The sauce is the most magnificent thing I have tasted in a while.  Maybe it needed to sit.  Maybe it was the sitting overnight that turned it from meh to magnificent.  I was wrong, wrong, wrong.  This dish is perfect as is.  The meatballs are superb and the sauce is...well, you'll see.  Just try it.

I was a little overambitious this weekend and thawed a lot of meat thinking I'd get to all of it before the weekend ended.  That didn't happen.  Every dish took twice as long and Anthony's Pasta Sauce took much longer than that.  In any event, tonight I got around to the Swedish meatballs. I found a recipe on Cook's Illustrated website and tried it out.  The meatballs were delicious.  I prefer them to the meatballs I made yesterday, also from Cook's Illustrated, which were meant for classic spaghetti and meatballs.  Those meatballs were a bit too soft. These are slightly more dense.  Not like a hamburger, but that just right place where meatballs belong.  They were perfect in every bite.  Actually, there is no comparison.  Maybe it's because these meatballs are fried.  I don't think that's it.  Maybe it's the spices.   But these were so much better than the others, that I'm not even going to publish the recipe for the spaghetti meatballs.

However, I'm not sure sure I like this sauce.  Maybe it was because I was already full when I cooked the dish.  Maybe it didn't agree with what I just ate.  I followed the directions exactly and the gravy turned out beautifully (quite possibly the best looking gravy I've ever made), but I thought it tasted 100% better before I added the cream.  Weird, huh?  Who doesn't think heavy cream improves everything?  Anyway, I'll have some tomorrow and let you know if a day for those flavors to marry improve it much.

But don't let that put you off these meatballs.  They are keepers.

 Swedish Meatballs

Published January 1, 2009.  From Cook's Illustrated.

Why this recipe works:We wanted our Swedish meatballs recipe to produce substantial yet delicate meatballs with a sausagelike springiness and satisfying snap. To achieve the right texture, we combined beef, pork, bread, cream, and a surprise ingredient, baking powder, which kept the meatballs delicate and juicy.  For the meatball gravy recipe, we wanted a light cream sauce instead of heavy brown gravy.  To get this, we added a bit of cream to our stock to lighten it up and and a splash of lemon juice for some bright flavor.

Serves 4 to 6
The traditional accompaniments for Swedish meatballs are lingonberry preserves and Swedish Pickled Cucumbers (see related recipe). If you can’t find lingonberry preserves, cranberry preserves may be used. For a slightly less sweet dish, omit the brown sugar in the meatballs and reduce the brown sugar in the sauce to 2 teaspoons. A 12-inch slope-sided skillet can be used in place of the sauté pan—use 1 1/2 cups of oil to fry instead of 1 1/4 cups. The meatballs can be fried and then frozen for up to 2 weeks. To continue with the recipe, thaw the meatballs in the refrigerator overnight and proceed from step 3, using a clean pan. Serve the meatballs with mashed potatoes, boiled red potatoes, or egg noodles.


  • Meatballs  
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large slice sandwich bread, crusts removed and bread torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 small onion, grated on large holes of box grater (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar (see note)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 ounces 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • Sauce  
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar (see note)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and ground black pepper


  1. 1. For the Meatballs: Whisk egg and cream together in medium bowl. Stir in bread and set aside. Meanwhile, in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat pork, onion, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder on high speed until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary. Using fork, mash bread mixture until no large dry bread chunks remain; add mixture to mixer bowl and beat on high speed until smooth and homogeneous, about 1 minute, scraping bowl as necessary. Add beef and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl as necessary. Using moistened hands, form generous tablespoon of meat mixture into 1-inch round meatball; repeat with remaining mixture to form 25 to 30 meatballs.
  2. 2. Heat oil in 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles (oil should register 350 degrees on instant-read thermometer), 3 to 5 minutes. Add meatballs in single layer and fry, flipping once halfway through cooking, until lightly browned all over and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. (Adjust heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking.) Using slotted spoon, transfer browned meatballs to paper towel-lined plate.
  3. 3. For the Sauce: Pour off and discard oil in pan, leaving any fond (browned bits) behind. Return pan to medium-high heat and add butter. When foaming subsides, add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour is light brown, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Add brown sugar and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and return to simmer.
  4. 4. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer, turning occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and serve. 
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