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Dorothy Dean presents: Meatballs just like (or even better than) IKEA makes

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

The excitement and anticipation of a child’s first time to Disneyland perfectly captures the feelings I had upon my first visit to IKEA.

We didn’t have the Scandinavian retail giant in Alaska – actually, we didn’t have a lot of things the “lower 48” had.

So my style- and decor-loving self was like a kid in a candy store, wide-eyed and filling my cart.

Hours later, through the labyrinth of staged rooms, fake plants, and pillow covers, we came across their food court.

It was like an oasis in the desert. We were famished – shopping does that you know.

I got in line and knew exactly what I was ordering: Swedish meatballs. In all the years I’d heard of IKEA, their meatballs were mentioned right with it. And, everyone who knew I was going said I absolutely had to try them.

I was handed a paper cup full of the saucy meaty morsels, quickly grabbed a fork and took my first bite.

Oh my, were they delicious! Like eye rolling good. And I don’t know if a combination of the hype and the fact that I was starving played in to it, but I sat – stuffing my face – and declared them the best meatballs ever.

Now that I live four hours from an IKEA (aka meatball heaven), it’s still quite a ways away for me to get my fix. So I had to take my cravings into my own hands and create them myself.

And I have to admit, these are just as amazing – and dare I say, better?

They’re juicy with a tender bite, full of flavor, and oh that sauce. I’m telling you, it’s what dreams are made of.

Rich and creamy, it’s a roux-based gravy made with beef stock and heavy cream, that’s spiked with Worcestershire, and sour cream. (Delicious, I know!) The meatballs are made with ground beef, though you could do a mixture of both ground beef and pork. And I make mine using seasoned stuffing mix, as I find it adds more texture and flavor, on top of the hints of allspice and nutmeg, than plain bread crumbs.

Baking them on a rack over a lined baking sheet ensures even browning and is just all around easier – and cleaner – than pan frying them. For added savoriness, try infusing some of the bits and drippings into the gravy – you won’t regret it.

You can also make them ahead of time. Just add the cooked meatballs and sauce into a slow cooker and set on the WARM setting – great for serving appetizer style at parties and potlucks.

If serving them as a meal, doubling the sauce is a must, as you’ll want plenty of that glorious gravy to smother your egg noodles, mashed potatoes or rice with.

Swedish Meatballs

Adapted from simplyrecipes.com and kitchme.com

For the meatballs:

1 cup dried seasoned stuffing mix

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 large onion, peeled and grated

1 pound ground beef

1 egg

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups beef broth

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sour cream

kosher salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

For serving:

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Egg noodles or mashed potatoes

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the stuffing mix and milk. Set aside to soften.

Place the butter in a skillet and melt over medium high heat. Add in the grated onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Let cool then stir into the stuffing milk mixture. Add in the remaining meatball ingredients and, using your hands, mix until well combined.

(For easier meatball rolling, you can chill the mixture for 20 minutes, or just continue on.)

Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and arrange on prepared rack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and bake meatballs until browned and cooked through, 20-25 minutes.

To make the sauce, add the butter to a large skillet and heat over medium low heat. (Drippings and bits from the meatballs can also be added at this point to make a more flavorful sauce.) Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, constantly whisking, until mixture is smooth and pale brown. Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir in the heavy cream and sour cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in the meatballs, reduce heat to low, and simmer until gravy thickens, about 6-8 minutes.

Serve alone as an appetizer, or over egg noodles, or mashed potatoes, with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.

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