Way, way back in the 1970s I worked as a teacher at the Idaho State Correctional Center (aka Idaho State Prison). One thing I learned – and I learned much more from the inmates than they ever learned from me – was there is a distinction between an excuse and a reason. This month’s cooking posts have been revisits of dishes I’ve served in the past couple of years. I’m not sure if this is an excuse or a reason but I think February is a good month for comfort food and what is more comfortable than food you know is delicious. This week we had my oldest son and his wife over for dinner – I’ve wanted them to taste these Swedish Meatballs since I made them in December 2015.
I use an Alton Brown recipe here supplemented by one from Serious Eats.
Lots of goodness here – we use a combination of ground beef and ground pork.
I read an article in the Washington Post – where they unveil a new series called Voraciously this weekend – that says cooking goes faster if you prep the next step while the current step is underway. That’s not my style; when I’ve tried it I’ve missed stuff. I like to get the vast majority of items portioned out ahead of time. If I have a dish – such as chili – where there is a looong simmer time, I’ll portion out the later steps while the simmer is going on. Now you don’t have to go to the extremes I do in putting every little thing in its own dish; but hey, I want my pictures to be clear (excuse or reason?)
That liquid in the small yellow bowl is clarified butter – yum. I melted some butter in the microwave and watched it separate into levels; the solids go to the bottom and some foam on the top – we don’t want those. We carefully pour the golden liquid butter from the middle layer. I made plenty extra in case I make popcorn later in the week; drizzling some melted clarified butter on the top is oh so good.
Before we really get started, heat the oven to 200° F – we’ll keep the meatballs warm in there later. You might also start a large pot of water on the stove so it will be ready to boil the noodles when we want it.
Once the pre-steps are done, soak pieces of white bread in the milk; next, sweat the finely diced onions in 1 Tablespoon of clarified butter until they soften; then add almost everything into the bowl of a stand mixer – we are still using Carla’s mom’s from the 1960s – and mix with the paddle for a minute. We don’t add the stock, the cream, or the flour – that’s for the gravy.
The most time consuming step is portioning out 1 ounce meatballs. I use a #40 scoop leveled off with the meat mixture. I put a piece of wax paper on a scale and start weighing out my portions. Once I get a feel, I’ll occasionally test weigh a meatball. I end up with meatballs between 7/8 ==> 1 1/8 oz.
Helpful hint: I use nitrile gloves when rolling the portions into little balls. Doing it with bare hands makes for messy hands and sticky meat everywhere. The nitrile gloves seem to repel the sticky meat bits. I use these gloves for many tasks – most notably handling raw chicken.
Then we fry the meatballs, turning occasionally. I don’t want to give you a time here – we go by temperature not time. I use an instant read thermometer to make sure we don’t have any rare or raw meat bits.
When they are close to being done have someone cook the noodles. When the meatballs are at temperature, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, put them in an oven safe dish and stash in a 200° oven.
Now we get to make the gravy! This gravy makes this dish!
You’ll have way more fat in the frying pan than you need; remove all but 3 Tablespoons then sprinkle in the flour and stir until the roux is getting brown and loses the cooked flour smell. The roux is almost ready in the picture below
Slowly drizzle in your broth. Recipes I looked at use beef broth. I use 2 cups of homemade chicken stock and 1 cup of beef broth made from Better Than Bullion. If you haven’t made gravy before you may start to worry “this is way too wet” Don’t you fret, that roux will do its job in pretty quick order. Here the stock is a bit more that halfway to being ready.
Dip a small spoon in, and see if it has a bit of coating on it. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. If you are using homemade chicken stock, it most likely won’t have nearly as much salt as even low sodium store bought – which is way too salty. I add less than a tablespoon of salt in when I make 3 quarts of stock so I don’t worry about liberally salting the gravy here. Add a bit and taste. You can always had more salt, but can’t take it out.
If you enlisted some help and things are going your way, the butter noodles will be ready – drain them and put in a large serving dish. Add the meatballs on top and cover with that luscious gravy.
Dinner is served. (You’ll have to look closely to see the salad we also had)
Someone had a birthday this week so we celebrated with the most amazing banana cream pie that my daughter-in-law brought. Can you say food coma?
Like the mushroom risotto I made last week; this dish almost rates 5 stars. But everything can’t be 5 stars. Four is excellent – totally good for company.
If you’ve clicked through my blog and have had a problem pulling up a linked recipe, please leave a comment on the post to let me know and I’ll fix it. Something happened back in the day to break a lot of those links. I fix them as I find them down but it is a long process. I’m experimenting here with loading the PDF into WordPress and linking from there. Let’s see how that works. You can find my copy of the recipe here.
Let’s see how that works