Meatballs like mormor used to make

Photo: Synøve Dreyer  / TINE Mediebank Meatballs in brown sauce sounds simple, but it’s as much art as cooking.

Photo: Synøve Dreyer / TINE Mediebank
Meatballs in brown sauce sounds simple, but it’s as much art as cooking.

Eli Sevenich
Sandpoint, Idaho

My family immigrated to the U.S. in 1952 when I was five years old. My mother is now 92, and prior to her having a stroke, I wrote down in detail how she made certain recipes. I would hang at her elbow and record her every move, as the recipes were always “in her head” or scratched out in no particular order, and perfected by a taste or a poke with her finger.

Her most popular recipe is meatballs with a brown sauce. Even when we would take our trips back to the “old country,” (the most recent one being on her 90th birthday) the relatives (my cousins) would praise her recipes as “old fashioned … how they did in the old days.” Our visits would be like a time warp from the old farm days, including her dialect, all of these things having been modernized in the new Norway.

2 lbs ground beef
1 medium-sized onion, finely grated
2 eggs
¼ to ½ cup whole milk (batter will not hold together with nonfat milk)
1 to 2 tbsps flour
½ tsp. all spice
½ tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
butter for browning

Put ground beef in stand mixer with the mixing beater ready. Add in the finely grated onion (this is what gives the meatballs their taste) and two eggs. Beat on the mixer’s lowest setting. Do not beat any faster or the meatballs will turn into golf ball springs (Mormor’s words … definitely a no-no).

Add milk, feeling the density of the batter to make sure the texture is right—not so thin it falls apart, and not too sticky. Add flour, again going by feel. Add spices.

Form rounded patties (meatball shape) by dipping a tablespoon into a cup of water (keeps the batter from sticking). Use about two tablespoons of batter for each semi-flattened ball.

Fry in butter at medium-high heat. Brown on both sides and try to have them cooked through (there will be a sauce, so they can finish cooking through in the sauce). Place in a saucepan until ready to make the sauce.

Brown Sauce
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups vegetable stock from bullion
1 cup red wine
1 slice geitost
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy-duty frying pan, on medium-high heat, mix butter and flour. Brown mixture, stirring frequently with a whisk to keep the butter from burning. Browning means dark brown without burning, which is kind of tricky to get right.

Add vegetable stock and red wine. If the sauce seems too thin, use less of these. You can always add more in later if the sauce becomes too thick.

Add geitost and salt and pepper. Keep tasting and adjusting the amounts of wine, stock, and goat cheese until delicious.

Pour sauce into the waiting meatballs. Simmer on very low heat for about five minutes to heat meatballs through.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 12, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.