Two More for the Smorgasbord


I met crisp bread this weekend.

It is a Nordic cross between cracker and bread (think matzah) made of rye flour. The Scandinavian poor have been eating it for centuries. The hearty crackers travel well and keep for months. This fact hints at crisp bread’s gastronomic charms. It is, in every way–appearance, texture, taste–a little like cardboard. The earliest form of crisp bread was probably carried into battle by the Vikings. That dates this food at at least 1000 years old. Continue reading

Curry Yellow Pea Soup


I’m one quarter Swedish, but it might be more accurate to say that I’m three-quarters not-Swedish.

Though one set of great-grandparents came directly from the motherland knowing only the language and culture of Sweden, most of what I know about Sweden comes not from family history but – like all good things – from Ikea.

When “The Spinning Plate” decided to do a short series of posts on Scandinavian cuisine, my thoughts first drifted towards lutfisk and ostkaka, two foods that have remained in my family’s lexicon if not in our cookbooks. But both lye soaked fish and milk curd cake seemed too… daunting. So instead, I settled on another Scandinavian standard: ärtsoppa (i.e. pea soup).

Continue reading

This Pancake Won’t Fall Flat


I remember vividly the first time I saw a filled-pancake pan.

It was featured prominently in a Williams-Sonoma catalogue, with a recipe for lemon curd and marscapone filled pancakes. As soon as I saw it, something clicked. Pancakes. Filled with deliciouness. It was a no-brainer, but the possibilities were breathtaking. After doing some research I found out that the concept of a spherical pancake was Danish, and that these pancakes were known as ebelskiver.

Continue reading

Steakhouse Swedish Meatballs

swedish meatballs

The last thing I expected to be making for this blog was meatballs. I hate meatballs.

Generally speaking.  Their texture is too often like gummy meat paste, or worse, reminiscent of sandpaper. There are so many bad meatballs out there.

When we chose Scandinavian food as our first international recipe project, I was a little apprehensive. More than a little. Nightmaric visions of open-faced sandwiches piled high with mayonnaise and boiled eggs and pickled herring swam before my eyes.

Considering my prejudices, Swedish meatballs seemed the most unlikely challenge to fall into my lap. So of course it did.

I didn’t stick to the book on this recipe. I decided to take some of my favorite steakhouse ingredients– thyme, red wine, onions, Worcestershire sauce, and mushrooms–and use them as inspiration for my meatballs.

And they were… delicious. Really. I used ground sirloin, red wine-caramelized onions, and panko breadcrumbs in the meatballs. They were on the loose side, but I like them that way. No gummy texture! I piled them high on creamy mashed potatoes and topped them off with an earthy portabello mushroom gravy. Who knew meatballs could be so reminiscent of a steak dinner? I didn’t. It was the perfect stick-to-your-ribs meal for a dreary Chicago winter day.

– Angela M.

Steakhouse Swedish Meatballs

mushroom gravy


For Meatballs:
– 2 lbs. ground sirloin
– 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
– 1/3 cup beef broth
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
– 1 chopped onion
– 1/4 cup red wine
– 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
– 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
– 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
– Salt and pepper

For Gravy:
– 5 portabello mushrooms, sliced into 1/4 inch wide pieces
– 2 1/2 cups beef broth
– 1/2 cup heavy cream
– 1/4 cup red wine
– Small bunch fresh thyme
– 1 tbsp butter
– 1 tbsp flour
– Salt and pepper

steakhouse swedish meatballs

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a saute pan over medium heat, caramelize the chopped onions with 1/4 cup red wine, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ground sirloin, panko breadcrumbs, eggs, beef broth, thyme, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl. When onions are translucent and reddish-brown, fold into ground sirloin mixture. Form meatballs into 1 inch balls. Be careful not to over-work the meat, or the meatballs will become tough. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the meatballs and saute until brown on all sides. Transfer meatballs to an oven-safe pan and place in oven to keep warm while making the gravy.

Add the portabello mushrooms and several sprigs of thyme into the meatball pan drippings and sautee over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add beef broth and heavy cream and heat through, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small pan over low heat, combine 1 tbsp room temperature butter with 1 tbsp flour to form a rue. With a fork, stir the rue into the gravy to thicken it, then add the red wine. Let the gravy simmer for 5-10 minutes over medium heat to thicken before serving.

Serve meatballs and gravy over mashed potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy!