Broadly speaking, the Scandinavians (the Norwegians, Danish and Swedish) are fiercely unified in their love of modern furniture, winter sports, and simple, cozy food. Thanks entirely to IKEA, the Swedish meatball has become one of the most iconic foods from the Region, although the ingredients could just as easily be Norwegian or Danish. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is my own take on this Scandinavian meatball, but in a sauce that pays homage to a rich gravy I tried during my first Christmas in Norway. The secret ingredient for both dishes? Brunost.
Literally translated to “brown cheese”, this caramel fudge-like substance is technically a block of boiled-down whey. And it is everywhere. Like kimchi in Korea and Parmigiano-Reggiano in Italy, it would be hard to open a Norwegian refrigerator and not find this staple ingredient sitting in a prominent place. It is usually sliced up (with a cheese slicer, and not a knife) and served with a bit of bread and butter for breakfast or a snack. In North America, the cheese is often sold under the Ski-Queen label (a sub-label of the mother brand TINE), and labeled gjetost (pronounced “yeh-toast” and meaning “goat cheese”). This is confusing for so many reasons, and perhaps I can go deeper into the history and use of this product another day. All you need to know for today’s recipe is that it does wonders to add richness and creaminess to a sauce.
You can make these meatballs in a variety of different pans, but the Le Creuset Braiser definitely takes the cake as the perfect vessel for this dish. Braising is one of the most dynamic forms of cooking as it allows your food to enjoy the best of both worlds: searing and cooking in liquid. The French Oven is also a suitable cooking vessel, but you can get so many more meatballs onto the large surface of the Braiser, making for faster cooking and more even crusting. The rounded edges also allow for easier deglazing when it comes time to make the sauce.
I’m using the beautiful Oyster Grey (gotta love that Scandinavian minimalist look!) 3.5 L / 3½ quart Braiser here, which has now become my go-to for so many things (you can even use it like a normal pan for things like bacon and eggs). I also swapped out the black handles for these elegant stainless steel ones (you can buy them in any Le Creuset store or online, and swap them back anytime you want to switch it up!). You can also tell from my Le Creuset Kitchen Pinterest Board that I’m just a little bit obsessed…
To add a little more to the Norwegian spirit of the dish, I would suggest serving the dish with plain boiled Mandel potatoes (also known as Almond potatoes), and a generous dollop of red currant jelly. You might be hard pressed to find fresh versions of these special foods in North America, but a fingerling potato and a cranberry sauce would mimic the shape and flavour enough in a pinch. I also made a side of pickled beets with a few sprigs of dill to complete the meal.
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ slice of white bread with crusts removed
- A splash of milk (just enough to soak bread)
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3-4 generous slices of Norwegian brunost (or gjetost)
- 5-6 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups beef broth (warm or room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley or dill for garnish
- In a medium-sized bowl, tear the white bread into small pieces and pour the milk over it to soak for at least 5 minutes.
- Add the beef, pork, egg, onions, and spices (including salt and pepper) to the soaked bread and mix well together.
- On a clean, lightly floured surface, form meatballs of 2 inch (5-6 cm) diameter.
- On the stove, preheat the Braiser on medium-low heat for 5 minutes before adding a knob of butter (or oil).
- Place each meatball carefully into the Braiser, working in a spiral pattern (so you can keep track of cooking order).
- Methodically flip the meatballs until they are browned on all sides (they do not need to be cooked through).
- Transfer meatballs to a heatproof dish and into a 350°F/180°C preheated oven.
- Add the rest of the butter to the Braiser (yes, leave the brown bits in!) and slowly stir in the flour to form a lovely roux.
- Slowly pour in the beef stock while stirring gently.
- Fold in the brunost and mustard.
- Transfer meatballs back to Braiser, garnish and serve.
- The best tool to use with this recipe is a silicon spatula. This will prevent scratching of the Braiser, and will also help you successfully deglaze.
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