Just two days after I proclaimed that this week would be all about detox, I’ve caved in like a four year old at a candy shop. Have I learned nothing about will power since my days as a cookie robber baron? It would appear not.
At least my intentions were pure. The problem is my mind. It has evolved a super-power over time to associate all (not just some) of my experiences back to food. My brother, who also inherited this major over-eater-cookie-monster gene, attributes this to childhood longing. I’m not talking about childhood longing for cooler toys or more time with mommy. I’m talking about something far more powerful. This is the same longing that compelled me to steal from the cookie jar repeatedly as a toddler and, a few years later, to sneak money from my parents dresser to pay for the toll-house chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches that I would stash away in the back of the freezer and under bags of peas where no one could find them.
Despite what I’ve said before about my mother being a great cook, our house was virtually devoid of any of the full-fat, sugary snacks that probably cultivated such a strong sense of generational identity in you or your children growing up in the 1980s. There were no hohos, ding dongs, or those cute chocolate cupcakes with the swirly doodle on top. No Pop-Tarts for us; our mother was a sugar Nazi.
So this week, when Juno blew in and caused a media raucous, I could think about just one thing. Frozen. No, not frozen little turnips stuck in the ground somewhere, but Frozen!–the musical starring Elsa, her depressive little sister (please… I know you’re in there…) and, of course, Sven, the lovable reindeer. And so, because Sven must have been Swedish, I made a quick super-power connection and set out to break my detox with some delicious meatballs–Swedish meatballs with plum sauce over orrichiette.
These meatballs are quite tasty with a deep and delicious flavor. The taste is much more savory and filling than with the Mediterranean versions I’ve made recently–I was full with only two meatballs. Although you can make these meatballs and eat them with regular pasta sauce, I recommend at least trying them with the Swedish meatball sauce I’ve made here using plums. The sauce is a really nice balance of sweet and savory flavors from the plum preserves, cream, and pickling juice. Unlike similar dishes I have seen, where the cream sauce fully coats and congeals over the meatballs leaving them glassy-eyed looking, this sauce can be drizzled over the top of the dish or under the meatballs on the orechiette so that the flavors can remain slightly separated.
To make the meatballs, first gather your ingredients and set up your ingredients tray. You will need: 1/3 lb ground sirloin; 1/3 lb ground pork; 1/3 lb ground veal (the meatballs can also be made fully beef if you are opposed to eating pork or are concerned about how your veal was raised); 1 egg; 1 small-medium red onion; 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley; 1 cup of heavy cream; 1/2 cup pickle juice (clear juice, not the yellow/green kind); 1 cup of homemade plum preserves; 1/2 tsp allspice; 1/2 tsp of nutmeg; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper; 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs; 6 tbsp of olive oil. Here’s how my ingredients look all laid out:
To make the meatballs, soak the breadcrumbs in 1/2 cup of cream. Meanwhile, combine the parsley, onions and the spices together. Toss in the meat and the egg and massage the meat for a minute until combined. Toss in the bread-crumbs soaking in the cream.
Form the meat into meatballs. Remember, the smaller the meatball the shorter the cooking time. For my meatballs, which have the volume of about two golf balls, you will want to cook them for 12-15 minutes. If you have time, go for it! If not, make them smaller (golf ball sized). Form the meatballs and set aside onto a tray. Heat half of the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat–the oil should appear to thin out, but it should not start bubbling or crackling on it’s own.
Sear the meatballs on all sides and cook for 12-15 minutes occasionally turning the meatball so as not to burn the meat. This recipe should make approximately 9 large meatballs or 18-20 smaller meatballs. As you finish each meatball, remove it and set aside. If you are concerned about the meatballs getting cold, feel free to pop them into the oven to wait on a very low heat. Once you have cooked half of the meatballs, add small sauce pot to the stove and turn the burner up to a low-medium temperature. Add the plum preserves, the pickling juice, and the rest of the cream and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, add a third larger pot to the stove and cook the Orrechiette al dente. Finish the meatballs while keeping an eye on your sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer, but do not boil it to death. stir the sauce occasionally. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes and cook down to a desired thickness. I am not a fan of very thick creamy sauces, so my sauce was left to simmer only for 3 minutes.
Remove the sauce from the heat. Now you have two options. You can serve the sauce with the plum parts over the meatballs or strain the sauce so that it’s nice and smooth. If you have a chinois or other very fine strainer, strain it by pouring the entire sauce mixture inside and using a ladle or a large spoon to press down on the plum flesh inside the strainer and push out the smooth pink sauce.
Place two to three meatballs over a plate of orrechiete and drizzle the plum sauce on top. Rent Frozen on Netflix and serve to happy children…or eat it alone, thinking about dessert. Screw detox…I know what I’m having next!