9-4: Swedish Meatballs

There seem to be a lot of differing interpretations of Swedish meatballs out there. Serious Eats runs into the same dilemma and ups the meatball’s game with umami and acidic flavors; Alton Brown stays simple and sticks to earthier allspice and nutmeg. Both soak the white bread in milk (panade) before adding it to the meat mix, whereas 9-4: Swedish Meatballs swaps the milk for water and keeps the spices restrained simply to salt and pepper. This doesn’t bode well.

Simply Delicious, you can’t call it an “original recipe” when the only original thing about it is how bland and unseasoned it is. I made these as a requested dish for someone else, and was provided only ground beef (their preference) as opposed to a mix of meats with which to make them. As a result, they were even LESS exciting–it’s a good thing the requestor digs bland food.

I’m not sure if my mom ever made these (she had a Swedish friend for a long time, my parents have a favorite story of chucking Swedish meatballs at her from a balcony during a party), but if she did, there’s a good chance she would have made them with ground turkey. 🙁

Ingredients. The meat was provided to me–it wouldn’t have been my first choice. However, I suppose part of being a cook by trade is to use your skills to create for others what they cannot create for themselves. Someone gives you meat and says make Swedish meatballs out of it, you kill two birds with one stone and use it as an opportunity to take pictures for your little Internet blog project. 😉

Subbed panko for white bread crumbs because it’s what I have. It’ll work fine if it’s what you have, too. Even Martha Stewart uses panko in her Swedish meatball recipe.

Soaked my panko in water–doing it in milk as the two aforementioned links would have given it a rounder, fattier taste. Remember, these recipes came from the early 80s’ when we were all about low fat/low calorie options–swapping water for milk was (and still is) a way to reduce calories (but also taste).

The recipe asks for grated onion–I tried to be lazy and run the onion through my food processor with the grater blade. These were my unsuccessful results.

Took the “grated” onion from the food processor and chopped the rest up by hand. I kept some pieces bigger for at least some texture variance.

Meat, and the full extent of spices in which Simply Delicious is willing to indulge for this recipe. In the interest of science and the knowledge of its intended recipient, I kept it simple. If you’re making these on your own, feel free to add in a bit more variety.

Meat mixture with the panade added. Eggs (or egg-binder-substitutes) are a binder you see in a lot of recipes as well, but in balls so small (tee hee), it’s not really necessary (as opposed to a burger patty with much more surface area/mass).

Felt like the old prep-cook days, making endless crab cakes. Putting down parchment paper aids in quick clean-up. 🙂

I used my biggest pan (12″ skillet) to do these–I like to have a lot of room to move them around. Pan crowding leads to unevenly cooked, weirdly-steamed meatballs.

Frying in only butter leads to it burning very quickly, but frying in only canola or vegetable oil loses out on the flavor that the butter imparts. I’ve found that an approximately 3-1 ratio (3 parts oil to 1 part butter) keeps the flavor without risking the burning/scorching that happens when you fry in only butter.

An easy way to do it is to count when you add fat to the pan–add oil three times, then butter once, repeat. I like to add in small increments to avoid being wasteful, and this is a good way to incorporate the two together. I don’t really measure, it’s mostly eyeballing. Enough practice and anyone can do it.

Why so much fat? Because that’s how you get to flavor country, my friend. Plain and simple. Trust me, this recipe needs as much help as it can get in that department.

Set up a little paper towel drying station next to the stove to stage them/soak up some of the grease. They stayed together pretty well throughout the process–keeping them small helps with that.

Shiny little balls of meat. I let them dry off (rotating them a few times) before packing them up. I tasted a few in the process–they were definitely balls of meat, but that’s about it. Pretty flat, definitely no undertones of any other spices or flavors. A flavorful gravy and/or accompanying dish could help them, but they really could have been so much more.

Final product before being wrapped and delivered. If I were to pre-freeze them, I would lay them out on a sheet, freeze them individually, then put them in a bag so that you could pull them out individually instead of having to defrost the whole mass or pry them off each other.

No word yet on whether their recipient liked them, but I thought they were relatively mediocre in their recommended form.

Grade: C+