Friday, December 24, 2010

Nate's Fav: Swedish Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes

The year was 1999. It was my boyfriend's birthday and he lived on OSU campus about three hours from where he grew up. I wanted to make him something really special; something that would remind him of home and something that he loved. I stealthily got his parents' number and made an awkward call. I had only met them once before. The call went something like this:

Me - "Hi. This is Lynn. I'm the one dating your son, Nate, and since it's almost his birthday, I wanted to make him his favorite meal. He said it's your Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Could I get the recipe from you please?"
Nate's mom - "Hi Lynn. We just make meatballs with a little nutmeg added to them and make the gravy with cream of mushroom soup and water."
Me - "Uhhh, okay. Well, thanks! It was nice talking with you."
Nate's mom - "You too!"

And then I panicked.

How was I supposed to make my love's favorite meal without knowing the recipe?! I had never made meatballs before. What size should they be? What made them Swedish? Was his mom upset that I was trying to recreate her baby's favorite meal that she has always made for him? Is that why she was so vague with the recipe? I was a mess (in case you couldn't tell).

A couple minutes later, my cell phone rang. Nate's mom had called Nate to get my number after she thought about our conversation. Maybe she could hear the panic in my voice? She told me she realized maybe I actually needed the measurements and ingredients. I was beyond grateful for that second call. Actual recipe in hand, I was able to make my boyfriend a little homemade comfort food. Was it as good as his mom's? Not nearly, but you wouldn't have known it by his reaction.

In the 11 years since, this dish remains one of his all-time favorites. It's the ultimate comfort food. While it occasionally makes it to a week night dinner, it's usually reserved for special occasions. Nate's birthday was last week, and this was once again his requested meal. With the original recipe (modified only slightly) I was able to make him one heck of a dinner.

And the answer to what makes these Swedish? I still don't know, but I think it's a nice combination of the size of the meatball, the mushroom gravy, and maybe the addition of nutmeg. Whatever it is, it's good.
*Full recipes for the meatballs and mashed potatoes are at the bottom.*

In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, onion salt, parsley, pepper, nutmeg, and salt.

Measure out the milk, and to it add the Worcestershire sauce and an egg. I like to crack my egg in a separate bowl or measuring cup, just in case the egg is bad, or egg shells somehow make there way in.

Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork. It looks kinda gross. Hang with me.

Add the ground beef to the bowl and combine thoroughly, but don't overwork the meat. This leads to tough meatballs. Roll out into balls the size of a walnut or so. I actually use the medium-sized Pampered Chef scope and it works quite well.

Add a little oil to your pan to help the meatballs get going. Start the water for your potatoes.

The meatballs start out round and pretty, but because I like to brown as much of the meatball as I can, they usually end up being moderately triangle-shaped when all is said and done. It's a personal preference. If you want to have pretty meatballs browned on only two sides, that's perfectly fine.

After the meatballs have cooked through, remove them from the pan to a paper towel-lined plate. Remove the excess oil from the pan. Don't be afraid of the brown deliciousness stuck to the bottom of the pan. With the help of some cream of mushroom soup and water, all these bits come right up and make the gravy extra delicious.

Add in a can of cream of mushroom soup and a can of water. Or if you make extra meatballs (like I did) or you have a gravy lover eating dinner (which I do), double it. Whisk it till it's combined. For years I tried to do this while the meatballs were still in the pan, but it's so much easier if the meatballs are added in after.

Add the meatballs back into the pan and top with some freshly grated nutmeg. A microplane grater does this job effortlessly.

As the gravy finishes thickening, drain 2 lb. of cooked potatoes.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine milk and butter and heat until the butter has melted. Add it, along with salt and pepper, to the potatoes and mash to desired consistency.

A plate of pure comfort, Nate-style.

Swedish Meatballs
Serves 3-4


  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 t. onion powder
  • scant 3/4 c. bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. minced dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • Vegetable oil for pan
  • 1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 can water
In a medium bowl, combine the onion powder, bread crumbs, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, Worcestershire sauce, and egg. Add to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until incorporated. Add in meat and combine with clean hands. Mix just until incorporated. Using your hand or a scoop, form the meat into a ball about the size of a walnut.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. After the oil is hot, carefully place meatballs in the skillet, browning the meat on each side and cooking till no longer pink. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

After all meatballs have cooked and been removed from the pan, drain the excess oil out of the pan and place it back on the burner, being careful that there is no grease on the side or bottom of the pan. Add the cream of mushroom soup(s) and water to the pan and use a whisk to combine and pick up the tasty bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the meatballs back to the pan, and add a lg. pinch of nutmeg over the meatballs and gravy. Stir and cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency.

Source: Nate's mom

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4-6
  • 2 pounds russet, Yukon gold, or long white potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup milk, or cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Peel and cut potatoes into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water; add 1 tablespoon salt. bring to a simmer.  Keep potatoes at a low simmer until a knife slips in and out easily. Drain potatoes in a colander and return to saucepan off the heat.
Place milk and butter in a microwave safe dish and warm until the butter has melted, about 2 minutes. Add the milk/butter mixture, salt, and pepper to the potatoes and mash with a potato masher to desired consistency.

1 comment:

  1. I am always at awe with the lovely (tempting) photos and sweet stories behind the recipe.