Norwegian Meatballs

Norwegian Meatballs

As documented in Christmas posts (herehere and here) from previous years, most of our family’s Christmas celebrating occurs on Christmas Eve. Dinner is always Norwegian meatballs, mashed potatoes, green beans, cucumber salad and lefse. This is followed by opening of presents and the eating of cookies. While traditionally, the great Norwegian-American Christmas Eve dinner features lutefisk, my in-laws have abandoned this as no one in the family actually likes eating dried aged codfish treated with lye and soaked in water until it is a gelatinous fishy blob. I’ve heard rumors that actual Norwegians in Norway have stopped eating the stuff but the proud Norwegian-Americans have stuck to their immigrant traditions and are now the main consumers of lutefisk during the holidays. While I’ve never had lutefisk, having a love of all things meatball, I’ve grown very fond of this Christmas meatball dinner tradition.

This year, I got an email from Chinese Santa, aka Yuan, wishing me a Merry Christmas and missing our Christmas Eve meatball dinners. So Yuan, Merry Christmas and here’s the meatball recipe so you can make it in Shanghai!

Norwegian Meatballs
From the kitchen of Grandma Lorraine with notes from Grandma Dorothy

  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup water

Make fresh bread crumbs by putting a few slices of white bread in the food processor and remove bread crumbs. Then, chop the onion in the food processor. Using your hands, mix together ground beef, onion, bread crumbs, eggs, salt and pepper. Add milk gradually – you may not need the whole cup, the meat mixture should be soft and easily molded into small balls. Roll meat mixture into balls and drop into hot oil. Pan can be very crowded. Fry on each side until VERY brown, almost burned is okay and will make for a richer gravy.

When meatballs are sufficiently brown, take off heat and remove extra oil/fat from the pan. Pour a small amount of water and simmer meatballs for about 30 min. You may need to add a little more water as you go along. When meatballs are done, remove them from pan and add potato water to the pan (because of course you will be preparing mashed potatoes to go with the meatballs!) to ‘deglaze’ (I doubt any Norwegian woman ever used that term). Mix flour with water to make a slurry and add it to the gravy. Bring gravy to a boil to thicken. Put meatballs back into the gravy to keep warm until ready to serve.

Christmas Duck!

For the 4th year, in what is becoming a holiday tradition, we celebrated Christmas with Yuan and duck.  As usual, for Christmas Eve, we had Norwegian meatballs, mashed potatoes and lefse.  Bjorn’s parents were also in town this year and our meatballs were made by his mom, a person of actual Norwegian descent.  You know, as opposed to me and Yuan who try to put soy sauce in the gravy.  They were delicious!  We were also gifted with a lefse stick, a fancy stick with Scandinavian designs painted onto the side of it used to flip the Norwegian potato crepe.  Even though Bjorn made lefse last year with a spatula, rolling pin and pancake griddle, according to any proud Norwegian American, making lefse requires special equipment.  Now all we need is the lefse rolling pin and lefse griddle.

For Christmas day dinner, Yuan, a.k.a. Chinese Santa, brought up two ducks to smoke.  I love Chinese Santa.  He brings the best presents and stuffs my stocking with Asian gummies.  That’s not supposed to sound dirty.

Bjorn’s parents and some Davis friends rounded out our Christmas day dinner. In addition to the duck, we made fried scallops, mustard greens, roasted root vegetables, shrimp fried rice, and cranberry eggnog tart. Perhaps a bit of an eclectic Christmas menu but when Yuan and I are in charge of holiday menu planning, you always get shrimp fried rice.

Fried scallops and Mustard Greens

Great Balls of Lamb

These were inspired by a lamb burger recipe I meant to make but never did.  Although I love lamb, depending on its preparation, I am sometimes turned off by the stench of lamb.  baaa.  I wasn’t ready to commit to an entire burger made of lamb so I made a mini patty a.k.a. meatball and cut it with beef.  They turned out yummy and were a nice change from the traditional meatball/slider appetizer.

After much experimentation and meatball tasting, we came up with a good general recipe, and by general I mean I did not measure anything.  I used a half ground beef and half ground lamb mixture in this recipe with salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, mustard, lemon zest, dill, and a Moroccan spice mixture (courtesy of Spice House).  I usually use eggs as a binder when I make meatballs, but I replaced the egg with whole milk yogurt.  Then I baked them in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees.   The sauce on top is a mixture of yogurt, dill, salt, honey, and lemon juice and zest.

Yuan and I also visited the fabric store for a complementary table cloth. Doesn’t it look lovely?

Christmas Eve Revelry

Happy Holidays! Yuan joined us for Christmas for the second year in a row and we had a lovely and rather active holiday. I got to go home early, Yuan took the train to Davis, and we had a lovely time drinking eggnog and planning our Christmas Eve feast. Our friends Heather and Wes joined us for Christmas Eve and we had a holiday meal gleaned from our Norwegian and Japanese heritages.

Heather brought over yummy mushroom appetizers.

As per Bjorn’s family tradition, we made Norwegian meatballs the night before Christmas. Yuan took over meatball making this year and I had to keep reassuring him that the meatballs needed to be browner. They were really delicious.

Christmas Eve Norwegian Meatballs
(made by Asians)

Meatball Accompaniments:
Roasted Carrots, Brussel Sprouts & Mashed Potatoes

Heather also brought a delightfully light pear salad with pancetta.

Yuan wanted fried pork, so I made pork katsu…then I fried a bit of pancetta wrapped shrimp while I was at it.

Sauteed Matsutake with Ginger

Christmas day we drove into San Francisco for some prime rib and eggplant parm at a friend’s house. Yum! The next day, we spent the afternoon on Clement Street eating dim sum and buying tiny dishes. If you live in the Bay Area, I highly recommend Kamei – an Asian kitchen supply store. The aisle after aisle of dishware makes me so excited I feel like I want EVERYTHING! I find it exhilarating and overwhelming. But that’s just me, and I love tiny dishes. Kamei has more than just tiny dishes though, they have an assortment of every kind of kitchen and food serving and preparing equipment. It’s awesome!

We had a great holiday eating well and hanging out with new and old friends.

Night Before Christmas

While Little Miss braved the holiday crowds and chilly weather in Chicago, Yuan came to our house in Davis for a low-key but food focused holiday. Yuan and I, having come from predominantly non-Christian Asian nations, never had strong family traditions around Christmas. For me, Christmas meant Bond marathon, TNT’s Christmas Story marathon, and a giant Christmas tree my dad usually got on Christmas eve when the big trees were on sale. Yuan arrived on the afternoon of Christmas eve after battling holiday traffic with a holiday duck in tow. We did some last minute holiday shopping at the grocery store and cooked our Christmas Eve meal.

Although my Christmas traditions revolved around the cable tv schedule, Bjorn, having descended from Vikings, actually has family Christmas traditions. As far as I can tell, Norwegians celebrate most of Christmas on Christmas Eve – at least the fun parts that involve food and presents. Christmas Eve dinner feature Norwegian meatballs (NOT to be confused with Swedish meatballs which have cream….oh the horror) and lefse, a thin potato pancake that is rolled up and usually slathered in butter and sugar. There are always mashed potatoes and sometimes herring salad which is actually quite good (although not if you don’t like pickled fish). Since lefse apparently requires some special equipment (lefse roller, lefse flipper, lefse skillet), we skipped the lefse and focused on the meatballs. I make a lot of meatballs, but mine are usually Italian style meatballs so there was some anxiety to be a good Norwegian wife and make some Norwegian meatballs. Norwegian meatballs contains ground beef and onion, held together with fresh breadcrumbs and milk, and then crowded in the pan where they are cooked until very very brown. The meatballs simmer and then a dark gravy is made from the pan drippings.

While I was fretting about overcrowding the meatballs, Yuan wrapped some prawns in pancetta.

Yuan also made some brussels sprouts cooked with hickory smoked bacon and Bjorn made some garlic mashed potatoes to complete our Christmas Eve meal.

For dessert, I made some sour cream cookies that I’ve been making forever. They are always as delicious as I remember them being…maybe a little too delicious because I promptly ate five of them in succession.


Aunt Annie’s Cookies

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks of unsalted sweet butter
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla (be generous)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (1/4 pint)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add baking powder, vanilla, eggs, flour and sour cream and mix together until blended. Drop spoonfulls of dough onto cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 20 min. Make icing with powdered sugar mixed with milk and brush onto cookie when they come out of oven.

Our Christmas meal featured 3 lbs of protein, 2 lbs of potatoes and an entire stalk of brussels sprouts. We ate almost all of it, oh and half a carton of egg nog. Holidays are great because somehow it’s okay to drink an absurd amount of spiked liquified custard.