When interviewing hockey players we invariably talked about cooking and food since many of these players were from Europe and had never lived in North America before. Their food traditions and comforts of home are very different from North American food traditions, and eating some of their favorite family foods made the distance from family and homesickness a bit easier to tolerate. A Finnish player who loved to cook told me his favorite food was meatballs with mashed potatoes, and following our interview he was on his way home to make them for his lunch.
Most North Americans think Italian when meatballs are mentioned, and while Italian meatballs are wonderful, my favorites are actually Nordic. Each Nordic region and family has their own favorite meatball recipe, but whether they are Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian or Danish, Nordic meatballs are the perfect winter comfort food.
| Swedish Meatball Recipes:
Swedish star chef Magnus Nilsson is author of the magnificent and essential The Nordic Cook Book, which contains over 700 recipes, including his Grandmother’s Meatball recipe, served with mashed potatoes, brown cream gravy, lingonberry jam, and quick pickled cucumber. (If you are interested in Nordic cooking, explore his wonderful comprehensive cookbook. Food & Wine published a variation of Nilsson’s recipe, oddly and perhaps mistakenly without any allspice!)
Magnus Nilsson’s Grandmother’s Meatballs (Mormors köttbullar) from The Nordic Cook Book
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 large egg, beaten
8 allspice berries, ground
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. plain dry breadcrumbs
1 medium baking potato, peeled, boiled, cooled and riced
11 oz. ground beef
11 oz. ground pork
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and white pepper to taste
Pour milk and cream into a bowl, add the egg, allspice and some salt and pepper. Whisk the breadcrumbs into the cream mixture and make sure no lumps remain. Add the riced potato and leave the mixture to swell for 5 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. Work well until smooth but no longer.
To check the seasonings, melt some butter in a frying pan, and add a little piece of the meat mixture and fry. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
Shape the mixture into large, loose balls with the help of a spoon and your clean, wet hand.
Melt a knob of butter in a large frying pan or skillet over a medium heat. Fry the meatballs until nicely colored and cooked through if you cut one open. It should take about 15 minutes.
Melissa Clark’s Swedish Meatballs & Gravy
Another excellent Swedish meatball recipe comes from The New York Times food writer Melissa Clark. In addition to allspice, Clark’s recipe includes ginger and nutmeg, and the recipe also includes a quick, delicious cream gravy.
Both recipes are comfortingly delicious and perfect for cold weather. Enjoy!