After two months spent preparing for Christmas, when it’s over the mood in our house is usually a little tired. A long, gray winter lies ahead of us and the magic of Christmas is past. It’s nice, then, to continue the festivities for a few days by making a meal or two like this one. It’s simple, and many of its elements may be prepared ahead, so it isn’t a great deal of work. And it seems to lift everyone’s spirits. Today it is raining of all things! Soon the temperature will fall again and everything will be a sheet of ice. Then another six inches of fresh snow will blanket us, and the temperature will dip to single digits. It’s nice to be gathered around the table with nice food, warm company, and nowhere we need to go.
Winter Supper: Swedish Meatballs, Rot Kraut, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Fennel and Green Apple Salad with Juniper Berries, & Swedish Rice Pudding with Spiced Sour Cherry Compote
The Swedish meatballs and gravy freeze well. Make them up to a month ahead, thaw them in the refrigerator, and warm them gently on the lowest heat possible, stirring frequently.
When you make the gravy, add the liquids very gradually and stir vigorously to avoid lumps. If you do get lumps, strain the gravy before you add the meatballs.
You may cook the potatoes and hold them in the hot water until you are nearly ready to serve dinner. Then drain them and mash them.
The salad is simple and very quick to assemble. You may make it at the last minute just before you are ready to serve dinner. A benriner is an inexpensive Japanese mandoline. Coincidentally, “Benri ne?” means “Isn’t it convenient?” in Japanese. If you don’t have a benriner or a mandoline, you may slice the fennel and apples with a knife. Just plan more time to do so.
The Rot Kraut may be made up to a week ahead and kept in the refrigerator. In fact, its flavor improves a bit over a couple of days.
The Swedish rice pudding and compote may also be made a few days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.
2 pounds ground pork
2 pounds ground beef (80% lean)
12 slices white bread
salt and pepper
1 scant c. whole milk
pinch or two of allspice
pinch or two of ground ginger
pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch or two of freshly ground cardamom
butter for frying the meatballs
- In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until they are just blended.
- Roll the meat into balls the size of a pingpong ball.
- Heat a very large skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, melt a good knob of butter and fry the meatballs until they are golden brown on all sides. Alternatively, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake the meatballs in a glass or ceramic dish for 45 minutes. Frying produces better flavor, but is more labor intensive.
- While the meatballs cook, make the gravy.
- Place the cooked meatballs into the gravy and simmer for 30 minutes.
Gravy for the Swedish Meatballs
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 T. all purpose flour
1 heaping T. grainy mustard
8 c. beef stock (preferably homemade)
4 c. whole milk, divided
½ c. flour
- In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Stir in the 8 T. of flour and cook for a minute or two.
- Stir in the mustard.
- Very gradually add the broth, stirring constantly.
- Shake one cup of the milk with ½ c. flour until you have a smooth paste. Stir it into the gravy.
- Add the remaining 3 c. milk and stir.
- Simmer until thickened, stirring contantly.
- Add the meatballs and simmer for 30 minutes.
1 head red cabbage, sliced on a benriner or mandoline into paper thin slices
3 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, sliced thinly
½ c. natural apple juice
½ c. red wine vinegar
3 T. brown sugar
½ c. red wine (not cooking wine)
- In a very large pan, sauté the bacon until it is crisp.
- Add the onions and sauté them until they are soft.
- Add the cabbage and all of the other ingredients and stir it all together.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat to lowest possible, cover the pan, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until the cabbage is soft and fragrant.
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
5 pounds Yukon gold or waxy potatoes
6 T. unsalted butter
2 c. heavy cream (I love Cedar Summit Farms.)
salt and pepper
- Peel the potatoes and place them in water to cover in a large pan.
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat and reduce it to a simmer.
- Simmer the potatoes for 20 minutes, or until they are very tender when pierced with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander.
- Place the butter and cream in the pan and warm them.
- Add the potatoes and mash them with a potato masher until they are very smooth and creamy.
- Season them with salt and pepper to taste.
Fennel and Green Apple Salad with Juniper Berries
2 bulbs fresh fennel
2 tart green apples
a small handful of juniper berries, crushed with a sharp knife
a drizzle of olive oil
2 T. white vinegar
salt and pepper
- Using a benriner or mandoline, slice the fennel and apples into paper thin slices.
- Scatter the juniper berries over the top.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and toss.
Swedish Rice Pudding and Spiced Sour Cherry Compote
Recipes In Concert
1. Make the rice pudding and refrigerate it.
2. Make the Rot Kraut.
3. Add the whipped cream to the rice pudding and refrigerate it.
4. Make the meatballs.
5. Make the gravy while the meatballs fry or bake.
6. Make the compote.
7. Boil the potatoes.
8. Set the table.
9. Make the salad.
10. Mash the potatoes.
11. Serve the meal.