The flu is going around something fierce. Two members of our family were really sick last week, which amounted to school absences, missed play rehearsals and skipped hockey practices. To my complete dismay, all of our routines and schedules flew out the window and normal life came to a grinding halt. There were many sleepless nights filled with coughing, tossing and turning. I bought gobs of cough drops and boxes of tissues.
I made a pot of turkey noodle soup and we hunkered down together on the couch. I'm happy to report that I've successfully nursed them both back to health with a good dose of love and home cooking. I'm sad to report that now I'm the one who's sick, and I'm writing under the influence of DayQuil. Read at your own risk.
Feeling under the weather, the last thing I wanted to do was cook this week. What I really wanted was a homey, comforting plate of Swedish meatballs swimming in cozy gravy made by my Swedish aunt. One problem: I don't have a Swedish aunt. Luckily, I happen to know somebody who knows somebody who does.
My chef and food writer friend, Karista, once published a recipe for Swedish meatballs that she got from her friend Maria, who really does have a beloved Swedish aunt named Dagmar. And being that Maria is a food writer with a Scandinavian background, I thoroughly trust that she knows what she's talking about when it comes to a perfect, time-honored Swedish meatball.
Using her aunt Dagmar's recipe as a guide, I made my way into the kitchen. The result was a pan full of moist, tender meatballs flavored with shallots and a warming touch of allspice. While the meatballs were baking in the oven, I made the quick pan gravy. It's creamy and subtle, a perfect companion for the meatballs. Traditionally, this dish is served with a side of lingonberry jam, but cranberry sauce is a great alternative, and I happened to have some on hand. Thanks to Maria's aunt Dagmar, I'm feeling better already.
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons shallots
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
For the gravy:
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 cup warm milk
2 1/2-3 cups beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
chives, finely chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the bread crumbs and warm milk to moisten. Add the pork, beef, shallots, beaten eggs, salt, pepper, and allspice. Using your hands, work the mixture together until everything is well combined. The mixture will be loose and quite moist. Using a medium cookie scoop, portion the meatballs, rolling them into balls using the palms of your hands. Place the meatballs onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake the meatballs for 15-20 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
While the meatballs are baking, prepare the gravy. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until it all comes together and forms a roux. Continue cooking the roux for about 2 minutes, to cook out the floury taste. Vigorously whisk in the warm milk and 2 1/2 cups of the beef broth until smooth and combined. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the gravy to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the other half cup broth as needed to thin out the gravy (you may not need it). Turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream. Add more salt and pepper as needed to taste.
Remove the meatballs from the oven and, using a spatula, transfer them to the pan of gravy. Stir the meatballs gently to coat. Garnish with finely chopped chives, if using. Serve with lingonberry jam on the side. Recipe adapted from Karista's Kitchen.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.