|Swedish meatballs with smoked pasta|
I have a real love/hate relationship with IKEA.
The first big commercials I landed as a designer were for IKEA. It was a mad whirlwind of a week doing 10 commercials in 2 days. I basically had 1 day to plan and one day to shop before the shoot ––and shop I did.
I had multiple carts and a crew of Ikea personnel to help me pull hundreds of items for the shoot while my art director was in Manhattan shopping for everything else we needed. I spent hours going over every square inch of the Elizabeth NJ store.
It was madness for so many reasons –– one of which was that my cell phone didn’t work inside the store so I had to run outside all the time to check on my art director’s progress or answer his questions or tell him what I found. Lord knows but it all worked splendidly and the campaign was so successful that we were asked to do another series a few months later. Although the next round of commercials was equally successful, they moved on to a new (less successful) campaign so I was done with IKEA –– so much for nothing succeeds like success.
I swore I’d never set foot in IKEA again and didn’t for ages. It was sort of like what happens when you eat too much of something and can’t think of it without turning green –– IKEA overload. Because of that, I always had my decorator take care of shopping there ––you can’t do a contemporary movie in NYC without using IKEA.
Eventually, I relented and have walked many miles in their stores in the last few years.
|Life Magazine, Nina Leen photograph|
One thing I can never get enough of at IKEA is their Swedish Meatballs. They were the fuel that got me through many a shopping frenzy. It probably didn’t hurt that they reminded me of the meatballs that my mother often served at bridge club –– sweet and savory and so darn good I would often snag some from the pan as she made them. IKEA, mom and bridge, who knew?
My new blog-friend, Maggy Simony of The Bridge Player Chronicles got me thinking about my mother’s bridge club menus a few months ago as we talked about bridge party food. Talking to Maggy brought back a lot of mom memories, including those wild Jello salads that my mother was soooo fond of for her bridge get-togethers as well as cheesy casseroles, snazzy shrimp dishes and these meatballs.
I have to admit it, I have IKEA to thank for the final push I needed to get a good Swedish meatball recipe. Last time I was in IKEA in April, I bought some of their lingonberry preserves after downing a plate of their meatballs to restore me after a few hours of shopping. After chatting with Maggy and running into the jar on the pantry shelf a few times, it seemed the Swedish meatball spirits were aligning to get me to make them (and they keep working their magic–– I've made them 3 times in 2 months!).
Sadly my mom’s recipe is lost, but doing some research I found one that sounded just about right at Cooks Illustrated, full of very wise tricks that turned out perfect, juicy meatballs positively bursting with flavor that had the best of both mom’s version and IKEA’s. It differs from my memories of my mother's version in that the preserves aren't in the sauce as my mother's was, rather served on the side. I think both styles are delicious.
Although they are served with potatoes at IKEA, for some reason I always thought of them with noodles. So I decided to try them with a smoked noodle recipe I made during the cooking marathon at my friend’s place in Vermont over Memorial Day weekend.
They have a giant smoker and I got it in my head to smoke flour. We put about an inch of it on a giant sheet pan and let it smoke for an hour or so, stirring every once and a while. I used my favorite Thomas Keller-based noodle recipe and was crazy about the results. I thought the meatballs would be excellent with my noodles and they were. 2 months later, the flour still smelled of smoke. You can try my noodle recipe or use dried fettucini (Maggy suggested you could put a little liquid smoke in the water with dried pasta with some of the same effect –– great idea).
Although I didn’t show them in the picture, they are served with crisp little vinegared cucumber slices –– a perfect foil to the rich meatballs and sweet preserves.
All I can say is no wonder mom’s bridge club parties were so popular with food like this fueling the card playing.
Swedish Meatballs based on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, serves 4
1 large egg, beaten
¼ c heavy cream
1 large slice bread, crust removed and cubed
4 oz ground pork (the original calls for 8oz)
1 small onion, grated
¼ t allspice
¼ t nutmeg
½ t ground black pepper
1 t packed brown sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
8 oz ground beef
1 T butter
1 T flour
1 ½ c unsalted chicken stock
1 T packed brown sugar
½ c heavy cream (I often use ¼ c)
2 t lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen peas (optional)
Lingonberry preserves for serving
Combine the egg, cream and bread and let them soak for an hour. Put in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment and add the port, onion, spices and rest except the beef. Whip it till it becomes a homogenized paste. Add the beef and combine just until mixed, don’t over mix.
With wet hands, make about 20 meatballs and refrigerate till ready to use, they will be very soft so refrigerating is a good idea.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the meatballs till browned. Remove from the pan and pour off the fat, leaving the brown bits. Place the meatballs on paper towels
Add the butter and when it foams, add flour to the pan and cook over low heat for 30 seconds or so. Add the broth slowly and cook till reduced to 1 cup and then add the cream. Return the meatballs to the skillet, add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and peas if you are using them and reheat the meatballs and serve with lingonberry preserves, cucumbers and noodles.
Swedish Pickled Cucumbers
1 ½ c white vinegar
1 ½ c sugar
1 t salt
12 whole allspice berries or ½ t ground
1 pound cucumbers
Boil everything but the cucumbers till the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the cucumbers and let cool. Put in the fridge to chill.
1 c smoked flour
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 t olive oil
½ T milk
Mound the flour and put the rest of the ingredients in the middle. Slowly bring the flour into the mix and combine to a dough. It will be sticky but a good deal of kneading will make the dough quite silky. Let is rest for about an hour and then put through your pasta machine.
Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday