My grandmother was Norwegian, and being tall, blonde, and blue eyed, when people ask, I always say “I’m Norwegian,” even though I’m only a quarter. My grandparents are all gone and I miss them all the time, my grandmothers especially, they were both incredibly strong women.
We have a few relics left behind by my grandma the Norwegian, a few gnomes, trolls, Norway’s flag, and two painted ceramic tiles reading “Takk for Maten” and “Velkommen.” I hear people tell of sitting on the kitchen counter as a kid while grandma cooked, and I wish I had those memories but I don’t. I know they were great cooks but my culinary interest didn’t come from them, it came much later in life for me. Still, my grandma served lefse with every Thanksgiving dinner. I thought lefse was as much of a Thanksgiving Day staple as the turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (all of which I rolled up in my lefse with butter, sort of a Norwegian taco).
The Norwegian meatball recipe is being carried on by my dad, he is a master, and an excellent cook himself, but I finally got around to making his recipe for the first time. When I told him I made them and was going to put them on the blog here is his email to me (I’m assuming all his information is accurate)…
“You might mention that Norwegians are some of the best meatball makers in the world. I actually prefer their meatballs to the Italian variety. They do not normally put cheese in their meatballs, which makes them firmer and less moist but they are always served with pan gravy which provides moisture and flavor. Swedish meatballs are a slight variation from the Norwegian variety. The Swedes use milk rather than water for their gravy which makes the gravy a milkier color and richer if you use whole milk (which I’m sure they did in the glory days). I’m glad that you are carrying on the tradition. The kids love those meatballs and I’m sure yours will too.”
He was right, I think my 11 month old had a couple meatballs all to himself. We all loved them, they are a perfect comfort food, rolled up in lefse, and served with roasted veggies and mashed potatoes. I like their texture with a little Parmesan in them, the Italians do know what they are doing. They freeze well right in the gravy, so I saved a few dinners worth for later.
The older we get I think we all wish we got more time with our grandparents generation. They gave us a tremendous childhood, more ice cream bars than our parents would have approved of, and recipes that we will pass down to our kids and grandkids.
Recipe: Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse
- For the Meatballs
- 1 small onion, small dice, olive oil, salt and pepper
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 eggs
- 1 c breadcrumbs
- 2 T Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 c milk
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 t kosher salt
- 6 grinds pepper
- 1/4 c grated Parmesan
- For the Gravy
- 1 T olive oil
- 3 T butter (divided)
- 6 T flour
- 1 quart beef stock (enough to reach desired thickness)
lefse for serving
- In a saute pan on low heat, caramelize onion until golden brown in a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, stir occasionally, about 30 minutes
- Meanwhile, mix all other meatball ingredients in a large bowl, including onions when they are done
- Form into meatballs and set on a sheet pan. They should be about golf ball size, use an ice cream scoop to portion. About 14 to 16 meatballs depending on the size. (this can be done ahead of time up to this point and kept in the fridge)
- Preheat oven to 400
- Heat a large pot or dutch oven with 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter over medium high heat. Brown the meatballs on one side then flip and do the other side (about 2 minutes per side). Cook meatballs in about 3 batches so you do not crowd the pan. When done return them to the sheet pan (don’t worry that it had the raw meatballs on them, you will be baking the whole thing)
- Place pan in oven for about 15 minutes to cook the meatballs through
- Meanwhile over medium low heat, melt remaining 2 T butter in the same pot you browned the meatballs. Make a roux by mixing in the flour and letting it cook for about a minute while whisking
- Whisk in beef stock slowly, scrapping the bits from the bottom of the pan until the sauce thickens. Only use enough stock to for a gravy-like consistency. As the stock and roux mixture heat it will start to thicken into a gravy
- Add meatballs to the gravy and simmer about 15 minutes or on very low until ready to serve
- Serve meatballs and gravy (break meatballs in half if they are too big to fit easily) rolled in lefse
Cooking time: 1 hour(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Microformatting by hRecipe.