2012 Advent Calendar, Day 16
Like Christmas on a plate, wouldn’t you say?

A few weeks ago, Gil and I grabbed lunch with friends at Red Rooster after recording that week’s Virtual Memories podcast in the neighborhood. The restaurant came highly recommended, but I still managed to be surprised by the range of dishes on the menu and how perfectly executed they all were. But if we’ve learned anything from The Highlander, it’s that there can be only one, and I was declared the winner of the ordering war with my somewhat unorthodox lunch: Swedish meatballs with a side of cheese grits.

I can’t say these meatballs are exactly like the ones in the restaurant, even though I followed Marcus Samuelsson‘s recipe to the letter, save for the gluten-free breadcrumbs. Still, they’re well worth your time and far better than any other Swedish meatballs I’ve eaten, barring the original at Red Rooster.

recipes after the jump

Swedish Meatballs from Marcus Samuelsson

I buy only pastured veal, which is part of  a much larger discussion about animal welfare I hope to get into soon. Whole Foods can be a good resource, though I prefer to stick to vendors at my local farmers’ market whenever possible. If you’re uncomfortable eating veal at all, I’d probably substitute equal parts ground beef and ground pork for it.

For the meatballs:
1/2 cup dry gluten-free bread crumbs
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground chuck or sirloin
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the sauce:
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lingonberry preserves
2 tablespoons juice from Quick Pickled Cucumbers (recipe follows)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the meatballs: Combine bread crumbs and heavy cream in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until all crumbs are moistened. Set aside.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, veal, pork, onion, honey, and egg, and mix well with your hands. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add bread crumb-cream mixture and mix well. With wet hands (to keep the mixture from sticking) shape the mixture into meatballs the size of a golf ball, placing them on a plate lightly moistened with water. You should have about 24 meatballs.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add meatballs, in batches if necessary, and cook, turning frequently, for about 7 minutes, until browned on all sides and cooked through. Transfer the meatballs to a plate, and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet.

Prepare the sauce: Return skillet to heat and whisk in stock, cream, preserves, and pickle juice, and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add meatballs to the sauce, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly and the meatballs are heated through.

Serve hot with mashed potatoes, preserves, and Quick Picked Cucumbers.

Quick Pickled Cucumbers from Marcus Samuelsson
1 English (hothouse) cucumber
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
2 allspice berries

Slice cucumber as thin as possible. Use a mandoline or other vegetable slicer if you have one. Put slices in a colander, toss them with salt, and let stand for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine water, vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, and allspice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.

Rinse salt off the cucumbers, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Put cucumbers in a medium bowl and add pickling solution; they should be completely covered by the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours before serving.

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