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.

Lefse!

Everyone seems to have some sort of potato pancake treat for the holidays. For Norwegian-Americans, it is lefse. Lefse is basically a potato crepe/tortilla. Clearly, I am not Norwegian (see name of blog), but my hubby is and seeing as when I was growing up, my family usually went to the Chinese restaurant for Christmas, we now do Christmas around here Norwegian-American style. I admit that at first, I did not really know what all the excitement was about. Lefse is pretty much just potatoes and flour and it was strange for me to eat my potatoes with butter and sugar. In fact, I horrified my in-laws one year by using the lefse as a tortilla to wrap my Christmas duck with hoisin sauce – it was delicious. But, over the years, I have come to appreciate lefse as a holiday staple.

This holiday season, it seemed like lefse got a lot of press with a video and recipe in the New York Times and more recently on NPR, so I felt compelled to do a special lefse post along with this lefse glamour shot.

Lefse

Like all Norwegian recipes, lefse requires a lot of specialized equipment and I have come around to admit that some of this specialized equipment makes the process easier. First, the lefse rolling pin – my mother-in-law admits that a grooved rolling pin is not necessary and in fact, cleaning the dough out of the grooves is not worth the distinctive pattern it makes on the lefse. Second, pastry cloth – this is an absolute must to be able to roll out the dough to the desired thinness without it sticking and ripping. Investing in this item last year has made all the difference. Third, the lefse stick – the first lefse item we obtained and makes it possible to get the lefse from the pastry board to the griddle, flip the lefse on the griddle, and get it off the griddle without tearing and falling apart. The New York Times video shows a nice Norwegian-American grandma demonstrating some expert technique with the lefse stick. Lastly, the lefse griddle – while we just have a pancake griddle we use, it doesn’t get quite hot enough to prevent some crispiness around the edges. A lefse griddle heats up to 500 degrees and the high heat enables you to cook the lefse so it does not burn or get dry and crispy and cooks while maintaining its soft pliability and get the distinctive brown spots.

Our recipe uses potato buds. It’s an easy way to get the necessary fine texture for the potatoes and given everything else going on during the holidays, a welcome cheat. Maybe one of these years, we’ll have to try to boil and rice real potatoes for it. When we do, I’ll update this post.

Lefse

  • 3 cups Betty Crocker potato buds or equivalent amount of riced potatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup boiling water (skip if using real potatoes)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup flour

Mix melted butter and boiling water and add to the potatoes. Add salt and milk and stir. Add flour and stir with hands until mixed and uniform. Place in refrigerator until cool, about a hour or two.

Roll dough into golf-ball sized balls. Place dough ball onto a liberally floured pastry cloth and roll very thin. You want to avoid the dough sticking at all so keep flouring throughout the process. Fry dry (i.e. no fat) on a lefse griddle at 500 degrees. Turn when brown spots appear, about 30 seconds per side.

Spread with room temperature butter and sprinkle with sugar. Roll up lefse and enjoy.

This post was approved by my Viking hubby who does all the lefse making in this family.

Pierogies

I grew up just outside Chicago, which is home to something like 1.5 million Polish people and a wealth of Polish food.  But I don’t think that’s the reason why I love pierogies – I love them because they’re mashed potato dumplings fried in butter.  What’s not to love?

As I learned in preparing for this project, there are several variations on the same theme with origins all across eastern Europe, with different spellings to go along.  These are the ones I think of when I crave pierogies, but if you have another version you love, please do share.

This recipe makes a whole lot of pierogies – I got 7 or 8 dozen out of it.  They freeze well (see below) and make for a good rainy day project with a friend and/or, if you’re like me, with a Scandal marathon on Netflix.

pierogi project work station

So, being curious and feeling kind of fall-ish, I added minced sauteed mushrooms to half of my giant batch, just to see what happened.  The basic potato version is better by a mile.  Seriously, no comparison.  So go for it if you want, they’re good…..they’re just not as good as the original.  Maybe with a mushroom sauce though….

Potato, Onion and Cheese Pierogies
adapted from Partial Ingredients

  • 6 cups all purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter, plus more for sautéing
  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • ¼ cup minced chives or scallions
  • 8 oz sharp or extra-sharp cheddar, grated
  • ¼ cup whole milk

Garnishes: sour cream, minced chives, caramelized onions (I bet some kind of jam would be delicious too)

Add flour to a large, wide bowl and make a well in the center. If you don’t have a bowl big enough, make the dough in two batches. Add sour cream, eggs, oil, and salt to the well and mix carefully with a fork, without mixing in flour.

ingredients in a well

Add water (at this point your well overfloweth) and mix in the flour gradually to make a soft, raggedy dough.

sticky, ragged dough

Dump your dough out onto a flat, non-stick, well-floured surface and knead for 8 minutes until elastic.

kneaded dough

Flip the bowl over and cover the dough with it, let it rest for 1 hour. Meanwhile, peel, cook, and mash potatoes. Saute onion until soft and translucent. Mix mashed potatoes, sautéed onion, butter, garlic, chives/scallions, cheddar, and milk, season to taste with salt and pepper.

delicious mashed potato filling

Cut dough into quarters (if you made one batch – if you made two, cut each in half) and cover the portions you’re not using with plastic wrap. Don’t use a dish towel – the dough is too sticky. Roll out to around 1/8” thick and cut out 3” rounds with a lightly floured cutter or upside-down glass – you should get 18 or 20 out of each doughball.

Scoop about a tablespoon of filling into each round and fold in half, squishing the filling into shape as you go. Pinch the edges together and seal with the back of a fork.

crimp edges with a fork

Put finished pierogies on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Repeat many, many times.

orderly pierogies

If you don’t plan to eat 8 dozen pierogies now, freeze on the parchment-lined pans for 2 hours and then vacuum-seal or ziplock bag them and stick them back in the freezer.

There are two ways to cook pierogies – boiling and sautéing. To take the cardiovascular high road, boil pierogies in salted water for 4-5 minutes or until they float. To take the delicious road, sauté in butter for 2 minutes each side, or until tantalizingly golden brown.

pierogies

To cook from frozen, heat butter or vegetable oil in a nonstick sauté pan and sauté frozen pierogies just until the bottoms start to brown, 3-4 minutes. Pour in a splash of water – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan – and cover for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover, cook off any remaining water, and slip in a pat or two of butter. Brown pierogies on either side and serve.

Shower Brunch

Shower

The brunch spread we put together for Little Miss’s bridal shower included a breakfast casserole, a corn and cheddar quiche, assorted pastries from La Farine Boulangerie, bacon (because you cannot have brunch without bacon) and a fresh summer fruit salad.

The breakfast casserole is a recipe I picked up from one the local ladies I worked with in Hawai’i. She brought it to a party and I could not stop eating it. After I got the recipe, I was a bit horrified to find out what was in it, but like any good casserole, it contains cream of mushroom soup and it is seriously delicious.

Breakfast Casserole 

  • 16 oz package of ground pork breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 10 oz box defrosted frozen spinach, chopped, squeezed dry
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz) can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 10 3/4 oz milk (use soup can to measure)
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 bag (32 oz) frozen bag tater tots

Follow directions to bake tater tots. Remove from oven and adjust oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, brown sausage. Drain and set aside. Using the same large skillet, drain out excess oil from sausage saving 1-2 tsp and sauté onions and spinach (you can also include sliced fresh mushrooms) on medium heat for 5 min. Turn off heat and add back drained sausage. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, beat eggs, mix in soup, milk and half of the shredded cheddar cheese. In a 9×13 inch baking dish, even spread tater tots to cover bottom of pan. Spread a layer of the sausage, onion and spinach mixture over the tater tots. Pour the egg mixture over tater tots and sausage mixture.

Bake for 45 min. in 350 degree oven. Remove from oven, sprinkle remainder of cheese over the top of the casserole and bake for an additional 5-10 min until cheese is melted. Eat right away or at room temperature.

Corn and Cheddar Quiche
Recipe courtesy of my fabulous cohost Erin

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp thyme
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 pie crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine eggs, flour, pepper, nutmeg, thyme and 1/3 of corn in a food processor. Blend until corn is finely chopped.

Pour into large bowl and add half & half and melted butter. Whisk to combine. Add remaining corn and grated cheddar cheese.

Prepare pie crust and place in pie pan. Pour mixture into crust. Bake until filling is set and golden, about 50 min. Serve warm.

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