I have a distinct food memory for Swedish Meatballs. Not the ones Mom made when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s. Her meatballs were made using the 1960’s secret ingredient in everything, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Now I enjoyed Mom’s Swedish meatballs, enough to order them in a restaurant as an adult, but hers had a familiar taste. They always reminded me of something we ate before, like the chicken enchilada casserole or baked chicken and mushroom dinner. Individual flavors did not stand out. Everything tasted “good” but that was it. No wow factor. My Swedish meatball memory is significantly different.
Joe and I were eating at a restaurant one night after a long work day. This was in the time before we became parents and could eat out during the week. I do not remember the name of the restaurant, but it was a wine tasting bar and very different from all the restaurants in the Mt Kisco, NY vicinity. It was a great place to go. I loved their idea creating a bar focused on wine and served small plates. This restaurant was open before tapas and small plate establishments were popular. Sadly, the bar did not last very long. Maybe it was a restaurant before its time.
I ordered a Cabernet Sauvignon and a small plate of Swedish meatballs. They were a revelation. I have no idea if they were authentic or not, but the meatballs were bathed in a light cream and fresh dill sauce. The fresh dill in the Swedish meatballs changed everything for me. It transformed a rich and traditional meal, to a fresh and light dinner that was truly unexpected. Not a can of Campbell’s soup in sight.
Fresh dill and I have an on again off again relationship. When I was in my early 20’s I cooked with dill all the time. It got to be too much, so I stopped eating dill. Fortunately, I adapted and appreciate fresh dill not only with fish, but in stews and chicken. Every time I eat dill it surprises me, as if I had forgotten what it tastes like. The flavor of dried dill must still be seared in my brain. Thankfully, now when I eat fresh dill, it is always a welcome surprise and not a recurring nightmare.
Honestly, what excites me about cooking is using fresh herbs. Adding, fresh herbs differentiate food from the walking the same routine to dancing with happy feet. The fresh herb flavor elevates the meal to new levels and defines the foundation, like hearing Mavis Staples singing, “I’ll Take You There”. Food, like music, ground you and lift you up at the same time, and there is always a welcome invitation.
Recipe Development for Swedish Meatballs
Is my recipe for Swedish meatballs authentic? Maybe, I am not positive. Based on my research, traditional Swedish Meatballs are spiced with allspice or nutmeg, a blend of different ground meats, cooked in a gravy with or without cream, and served with Lingonberry Jam. I researched many recipes and used the similarities for my base recipe. My sauce is a total improvisation, but I believe it works. The sour cream in the sauce has such a wonderful and welcome tang. I would miss it if I made this recipe using heavy cream. Adding fresh dill to any meat dishes always adds dimension and pairs well with the lightly blended meat and sour cream.
Based on my experience making meatballs, I decided to try a different technique recommended by Daniel Gritzer from Serious Eats. Instead of baking the meatballs in the oven, or frying them in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter, I deep-fried them. Well, if you can call ½ inch of oil deep-fry, but this recommendation worked perfectly. The meatballs were evenly browned with a smooth round shape. The thin crispy exterior was the perfect thickness protecting the tender meat inside. Also, frying the meatballs got rid of my typical problem of having too much flour coating the meatballs. Joe is our in-house meatball expert and loved them a lot. He especially liked the contrast of the crispy exterior and the tender and juicy interior.
Whether or not my version can authentically be labeled Swedish Meatballs, I believe they are respectful to its history. What matters to me, is they are a welcome change and fun challenge for me to make. It is not a fancy dinner, but a pleasing one with enough distinct and delightful flavors to have its own identity. Careful, they are quite addictive. It was hard for me to stop nibbling them while I was photographing the Swedish meatballs. If Mom were here enjoying a dinner of Swedish meatballs with us, I am certain she would like them so much she would lick her plate clean.
Not My Mother’s Swedish Meatballs
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- 4 Tbs butter divided
- 1 small onion minced
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- Handful of chopped parsley
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2-3 Tbs flour
- 1 Tbs oil used for frying
- 2 cups beef broth plus extra
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Kosher or Flakey Sea Salt to taste
- Fresh Ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup sour cream
- 5 sprigs of fresh dill minced
Put the milk and the bread crumbs in a small bowl and let them soak for a few minutes.
Add 2 Tbs butter to a small skillet and add the minced onions. Cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent and softened. Turn off heat and slightly cool the onions.
Add the ground beef, ground pork, milk soaked bread crumbs including the milk, the egg, nutmeg, minced parsley, Kosher salt, and ground pepper to the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor.
Mix on low speed until all the ingredients are just combined. Turn the speed to medium high and mix for about one minute.
Roll the ground meat mixture into small meatballs the size of a walnut, about 1 inch in diameter. Place the rolled meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Wet your hands with water to keep the ground meat from sticking to your hands while you are working.
Turn the oven on to 200˚F and place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack.
Use a 12-inch skillet and pour in vegetable oil until the oil reaches a depth of ½ inch. Heat the oil to 350˚F.
Fry the meatballs until they are evenly golden brown and have the internal temperature of 160˚F. This will take about 3-4 minutes depending on the size of your meatballs. While frying the meatballs, turn the meatballs over so they get evenly browned. A fish spatula is perfect tool to guide the meatballs over. You will need to fry the meatballs in batches, and being careful not to crowd the pan. I cooked 9-10 meatballs at a time in my 12-inch skillet.
When done, remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon, or spider, and place on the baking sheet in the pre-heated oven. I found it easier to transfer the meatballs to the oven in two steps. First, I removed the meatballs from the skillet and placed onto a dinner plate. Then I used the plate to transfer the meatballs into the oven and roll them off the plate and onto the rimmed baking sheet. (The plate was also useful as a staging area to check the internal temperature of the meatballs. Additionally, if red juices dripped out of the meatballs I knew more cooking time was needed.)
Repeat frying the meatballs in batches until all the meatballs are cooked. Make sure the oil in the skillet reaches close to 350˚F each time you start a new batch.
Keep the meatballs warm in the oven while you are making the sauce.
In another skillet or Dutch oven, add 1 -2 Tbs of the oil used to fry the meatballs with. Add 2 Tbs of butter and turn the heat up to medium. When the butter is melted add 3 Tbs flour and stir into the butter with a wire whisk. Cook the flour and butter until the mixture is a nice light brown color and you do not smell the flour, about 2-3 minutes. Pour 2 cups of the beef broth into the butter and flour and whisk the ingredients until it is smooth and incorporated, do not let it boil.
Add the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and mix together. Taste for salt and add Kosher salt, a small pinch at a time, to correct the seasoning.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sour cream. Taste and correct the seasoning if needed. Add more beef broth if it is too thick for your taste. Place the pan back on the burner and turn the heat on low. Add the minced dill and stir.
Add the meatballs and mix together with the sauce. Correct your seasoning to taste and serve.
The meatballs can be made a head in two ways.
1- Cook the meatballs and refrigerate them until you are ready to serve them. When ready, make the sauce 30 minutes before you want to serve them, and heat up the meatballs in the sauce.
2: Prepare the meatballs and the sauce in a Dutch oven. Cool the Swedish meatballs, cover with the lid, then refrigerate until needed. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Put the covered meatballs in the oven and warm up. About 30 minutes. Check the warming meatballs to make sure they are not drying up. Add more beef stock if needed.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There are many Christmas Eve traditions in this country and the holiday menu is only one part of it. My childhood Christmas Eve dinner was traditionally a beef dinner. Mom would put together a simple but elegant meal of beef stew, rice or potatoes, a green vegetable, and salad. For dessert she made persimmon pudding with hard sauce. Mom steamed the persimmon cake in a clean repurposed coffee can. Why bother to buy another pan to bake one cake, when there was a perfectly useful container right at home?
One Christmas Eve stew I remember very well, is Beef Stew with Horseradish Sauce. It is different from traditional American beef stew and beef bourguignon, but no less worthy of recognition. Beef Stew with Horseradish Sauce had more pizzazz than American beef stew, not as rich as beef bourguignon. I can distinctly remember loving it upon first bite.
I get very nostalgic when I think about my childhood Christmas Eve celebrations. It has been a long time since I celebrated Christmas at 10 Barner Lane, but despite the years gone by, I can clearly visualize the evening. On Christmas Eve, Dad always wore his red plaid wool vest along with his blazer and plaid bow tie. Mom wore a long red wool skirt, white ruffled blouse with black embroidered trim, and a wide black belt. The rest of us wore our best clothes that were au courant for the season. For us “kids,” getting dressed up on Christmas Eve was never a chore, or formality. Putting on one’s “party clothes” symbolized a special occasion was here and we were going to celebrate.
When dad was all finished dressing for the occasion, he would kneel by the dining room cabinet, reach inside to turn on the record player, place Joan Baez’s album Noël on the turntable, and turn the volume up. Her soprano voice would confidently but gently sing out, “O come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel … Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee Israel….” With the beginning notes of her enchanting voice the party began.
I would wait in the dining room for dad, anticipating his arrival and turning on the Christmas music. As soon as he was near the record player I would stand by his side and watch him turn on the “Victrola” as he called it. Next to the our tradition of singing Christmas Carols around a candle lit tree, playing Joan Baez’s album was one of my anticipated events of the evening. To me it signaled the beginning of our Christmas festivities and all the glory that was to come. Joan Baez’s clear voice filled our home for all to hear.
As Mom finished preparing the dinner in the kitchen, we built a fire in the fireplace, then Dad and I would sit on the couch in the living room, he with his wassail and I with my hot cider. We sipped and listened to Joan Baez sing, and waited for the rest of the family to gather and our guests to arrive. Dad was just as excited about Christmas Eve as I was. I could always count on Dad’s routines and traditions, as I could always count on him.
Mom acquired the beef stew recipe some time the in the 70’s and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. It has a simple name, Beef with Horseradish Sauce, but don’t let the simple name fool you. There are deep, subtle, and warm flavors in the stew. Hints of curry and ginger meld with the rich seared and oven stewed beef. To add more subtle layers of flavor I added orange zest and cinnamon to infuse in the stew. I also wanted to coax out additional natural sweetness and added carrots and extra onions. The warm caramelized flavors of the spiced beef contrasted nicely with the tang of the sour cream and the bite of horseradish.
Helpful Hints Making Beef Stew with Horseradish Sauce
To start the stew off, I recommend cutting the beef into three large pieces, sear the meat until golden brown, then cut the meat into smaller bite size chunks. This technique encourages the meat to sear properly and not steam in the pot. It is also a technique recommended by Serious Eats. I found this method to be very effective and not a lot of extra work.
For the most part the stew will cook unattended in the oven, but you cannot forget about it. It is possible to overcook the meat in a stew despite the fact the beef is cooking in all that wonderful liquid. If cooked too long, the beef will get very dry and stringy. It is worth the extra effort to check on the progress of the stew meat after an hour and a half of cooking, then every 30 minutes thereafter. There is a possibility that the stew meat will reach the desired tenderness before the specified cooking time is up.
If you are making this stew a day or two ahead, you especially want to pay attention to the consistency of the stew. The additional cooking to heat the beef stew up again, for at least 30 minutes, will continue to cook and break down the beef. Stew should have discernible chunky tender pieces of beef that are just beginning to break down, not shredded and falling apart, as if for a pulled meat BBQ or a meat ragu.
I am unable to find the origin of Mom’s recipe. Most likely it was given to her from a friend, and from there is anybody’s guess. I have hopes that this mystery recipe will develop into its own identity and begin a new life with all of you. A new American stew. A hodgepodge stew of many possible origins, with each ingredient dependent on the other to accentuate its best features, and gel together into one big interesting and flavorful stew. Enjoy!
Beef Stew with Horseradish Sauce
- 4 lbs/ ~2 kilos beef -chuck or top round beef
- 4 Tbs/60g butter divided
- 2 medium carrots washed peeled and cut in half both ways to get 4 big pieces per carrot
- 3 large onions divided
- 2 tea/~5g curry powder
- 1 inch/2.5mm piece of fresh ginger minced
- 2 Tb/ 30ml Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon Stick
- 3 pieces on orange zest about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide
- 1 tea Kosher salt
- 1/2 tea pepper
- 1 cup/250 ml chicken stock
- 1 cup/250ml dry white wine
- 1 cup/243g sour cream
- 2 Tb/308g prepared horseradish
- 2 Tb chopped fresh parsley
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F /150 degrees C/ Gas Mark 2
Cut the beef chuck into large steak like pieces. I had two pieces of beef chuck at 2.5 lbs each. I cut each piece into three large pieces.
Turn the stove up to medium high heat and melt 2 Tb of butter in a Dutch Oven. Sear the meat on both sides until golden brown. This will take several minutes on each side. Be patient and do not touch or move the beef around while it is searing. If you are using one pot you will need to brown the meat in two batches, adding the remaining 2 Tb of butter in the pot to sear the batch of meat. (See note)
Remove the seared meat from the Dutch oven and cut the seared beef into equal size pieces of around 1 1/2" to 2". Set the cut meat aside and reserve for later.
Cut 2 onions in half lengthwise then thinly slice the halves across the width. Saute the sliced onions in the Dutch oven with the rendered fat from searing the beef, until the onions begin to brown. Remove the sliced onions with a slotted spoon from the Dutch oven and reserve for later.
Cut the remaining onion into quarters and put in the Dutch oven. Add the carrots and brown the vegetables. About 5-8 minutes.
Add the minced ginger and curry powder and briefly cook for about 1 minute. Add the Worcestershire sauce, stock, white wine, orange zest, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and salt, pepper into the pot and stir to mix.
Add the beef chunks and any juices that accumulated in the pan, and heat the stew on the stove until it just begins to boil.
Cover the pot with a lid, very slightly ajar, and put into the preheated oven.
Cook the stew for an hour and a half. At that time check the meat to see its progress and remove the carrots and onions from the stew.
Add the reserved sauteed onions to the Dutch oven making sure to scrape out of the pan any accumulated juices. Stir to combine.
Put the stew back into the oven and continue to cook the stew in the oven and check for doneness every 30 minutes until the meat is tender, can easily be broken up with a fork, but still retains its shape. The beef is not completely falling apart. The original recipe called for 3 hour cooking time, but every oven is different so it is a good idea to monitor the progress to not cook the beef longer than necessary. My stew was done in 2 1/2 hours.
If you are making the stew ahead of time, I would recommend to stop cooking the stew by or before the 2 1/2 hour mark. You will cook the stew at a later time to heat it up and you do not want it to turn to mush. If reserving for later, Cool the stew down and put in the refrigerator, covered in the same pot, until you plan to reheat it.
Before serving mix the sour cream, horseradish and chopped parsley in a small bowl until just combined.
Before adding the horseradish sour cream, remove the orange peels, cinnamon stick and bay leaf from the pot.
Just before serving the beef stew, add the sour cream and horseradish to the stew and stir until well combined. You could also opt to serve the horseradish sauce as a condiment on the side. That way people can opt out of the sour cream if they want to, or add the amount of sour cream they desire.
Serve with buttered egg noodles, or boiled, buttered and herb red potatoes, along with a dark green vegetable like Brussels sprouts, broccoli or green beans.
I used two pans to sear the beef and divided the 4 lbs of beef and the 4 Tb of butter equally between each pan. I used a Dutch Oven and a cast iron skillet. It cut down on my cooking time significantly and if you can manage it, I recommend it. I then sauteed the sliced onions in the skillet and reserved them to add later into the stew.
I continued cooking the remaining steps in the Dutch oven.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
“Why don’t we have this more often?” Taylor asked me one night. He did not waste any time to express himself as he was asking the question before he finished chewing on his first bite. He was referring to flank steak marinated in a sherry and soy sauce marinade. I did not really have an answer for him, and I had to reflect on the question myself. Why not? I used to make it every time I cooked flank steak. This marinade adds a lot of flavor to flank steak and is also great to marinate skirt steak and pork tenderloin.
This sherry marinade brings back a strong food memory for my family as well. Years ago we were visiting friends in Wellfleet, MA for the weekend and for a food contribution I brought skirt steak marinating in the sherry marinade. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control the skirt steak was left marinating in this sherry marinade for over 48 hours, (something that I do not recommend because it could turn your meat mushy.) We desperately grilled the steak at the last hours of our vacation and made sandwiches to bring to the beach.
I can see that afternoon so clearly: sitting on the beach at the National Seashore in Wellfleet, relaxing and soaking in the sun, wishing we did not have to leave, watching my kids and our friends body surfing the waves, taking one last dive to feel the crisp ocean waters. There is something about this place fills my soul and completely relaxes me.
The sandwiches were simply prepared with grilled steak on hamburger buns and devoured instantly. We could have had 1oo sandwiches and it would not have been enough. The skirt steak was tender not mushy, (phew) and the sandwiches had a lingering well-rounded sweet, salty and meaty taste that completely satisfied and made you crave more.
Maybe it was the fresh seaside air and the cool ocean water that contributed to our collective memory, but the flavor of the grilled skirt steak sandwiches defined umami. Taylor posed a good question to me: something so good needs to be served on a regular basis, with or without the National Seashore in Wellfleet as an excuse.
Grilled sherry marinated flank steak will hit your umami sense as well, and like Taylor you will begin to crave this steak for a regular meal. If you are lucky to have leftovers the grilled steak can be used in salad, sandwiches, tacos, fajitas, or in a stir-fry. For me, I look forward to the leftover steak sandwiches more than the flank steak dinner. It is a quick and easy dinner, and with a bit of advanced preparation can easily fit into a weeknight dinner menu. If you do not own a grill, flank steak can be prepared on the stove in a grill pan or under the broiler. Cooking times will vary due to how hot your grill, pan or broiler are, so watch the steak because it does not take long to cook.
I came across the recipe for this marinade watching BBQ with Bobby Flay on Food Network possibly 12 years ago. It caught my attention because I was on the prowl for ways to jazz up pork tenderloin. The original recipe from the episode that I watched is, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Guava Glaze and Orange Habanero Mojo. However, the current recipe on the website no longer has the marinade part of the recipe. My own age and kids age do not make me feel old, but searching for an old recipe on Food Network does. It has been around for so long they do not even have it in their archives. I know it was there. I wrote it down on a scrap piece of paper and have kept it in my files ever since.
Tips for cooking steak:
Eliminate the cooking time by taking the meat out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking. This will bring the meat up to room temperature and will need less time on the heat.
Use recipes as a guideline for cooking time. There are too many variables that will affect how long it will take to cook your specific piece of meat using your specific equipment.
Dry the meat before putting on the pan or grill. The drier the exterior the better the meat will sear or brown.
Cook meats on the grill in two phases using direct and indirect heat. First cook the steak on direct heat to get a good sear on the outside. After a couple of minutes per side, move the steak to a place on your grill that is not directly over the coals, or flame, to finish cooking the interior of the steak using indirect heat.
Do not over cook the steak. It is best served on the rare to medium rare side. Internal temperature for meat that is rare is 125-130 degrees F, medium rare range is 130-140 degrees F. Steak cooked to 150 degrees F or higher, will be well done and dry.
Let the steak rest for 5 to 15 minutes after cooking and before carving and eating. The moisture in the steak will circulate through the meat and keep the steak moist.
Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak
Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak
- 1- 1 1/2 lbs flank steak
- 1 recipe Sherry Marinade
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup low salt soy sauce or low salt Tamari Sauce
- 1/4 cup dry sherry Fino
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 Tbls unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 TB fresh orange juice
- 1 TB fresh rosemary
- 1 TB minced shallots
- 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
Combine all liquid ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly until mixed together.
Mince the rosemary then add to the bowl, save the stems. Add the minced ginger to the liquid ingredients in bowl. Whisk all the ingredients together.
Prepare the Flank Steak
Place the flank steak in a gallon size zip-lock bag, or small Pyrex dish large enough for the steak to lay flat.
Pour the marinade into the bag or pan and add the reserved rosemary stems. Seal the bag, carefully getting out as much air as reasonable, and place bag with the steak in a rimmed tray or pan large enough for the flank steak to lie flat. If not using a plastic bag, cover your dish with plastic wrap. Put the marinating meat in the refrigerator.
Marinate the flank steak for at least 2-3 hours or up to 24 hours, turning the steak over from time to time so the whole piece gets marinated evenly.
Take the steak out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking time. You want the meat to come up to room temperature, which will require less cooking time.
Take the flank steak out of the marinade and place it on a rack fitted inside a baking sheet. Dry the flank steak with paper towels. Lightly salt both sides of the steak, less than a teaspoon in total.
Prepare your grill for high heat.
Rub both sides of the flank steak lightly with olive oil and rest the streak on the rack until the grill is hot.
When your grill is hot set the flank steak on the grill directly over the coals, or heart source for gas grill. Cook he flank steak for 3 minutes on one side then turn it over and cook on the other side for two to three minutes. Check internal temperature, you want the middle of the flank steak to read 125° to 130°F (52° - 54°C) for medium rare. If the steak is not ready, move the flank steak over to the side of the grill, away from the coals, and continue to cook with indirect heat until internal temperature reads 130°F (54°C). Hopefully a just a couple minutes more.
Take the flank steak off the grill and rest on a cutting board. Grind fresh pepper to taste on the steak and let the steak rest, loosely covered, for 10-15 minutes.
Slice the flank steak across the grain of the meat in thin slices.
Serve with your favorite sides, like buttered green beans with basil, sliced tomatoes, grilled corn, caramelized onions.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.