Dinner:  March 13, 2010

You might recall that I recently came up with a meatball recipe that we really love, but in the interest of changing things up a bit, I decided to try a different spin. The “Swedish meatballs” I grew up on were simply meatballs browned and then simmered in canned mushroom soup, and the grey and rainy weather we had this weekend got me craving just that sort of dish.

I haven’t bought canned soup in years, so I’d have to build the mushroom sauce from scratch, and I decided to swap out a few of the seasonings in the meatballs themselves to bring them more in line with a traditional Swedish-style meatball. I rolled them smaller, ending up with 36 orbs rather than the two dozen in my original recipe. I also decided to brown them in the oven rather than on the stovetop, a method that worked really well and a great option for those of you who are averse to frying.

Creamy and comforting, served atop a pile of buttered parsleyed egg noodles, these meatballs were just the thing to chase the chill away on Saturday evening. Held in a crock pot, I’d imagine these or my original red-sauced version would be a great dish to serve at a casual party or potluck.

Truly Tender Meatballs in Creamy Mushroom Sauce

1 cup soft fresh breadcrumbs
¼ to ½ cup milk
½ cup fresh ricotta, drained if very wet
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 teaspoons Kosher salt
½ teaspoon each Colman’s mustard, ground allspice, ground white pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb. ground beef
½ lb. ground pork

Preheat oven to 400.

Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and moisten them with just enough milk to cover them, pressing gently. Remove the breadcrumbs from the milk, squeezing out the excess liquid, and add to a large mixing bowl. Add the egg to the bowl and beat lightly. Add the ricotta, salt, mustard, allspice, white pepper, and nutmeg and mix until well combined. Add the beef and pork and, with clean hands, mix gently until the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Scoop or pinch off small amounts of the mixture and roll into meatballs, placing them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce

1 oz. dried porcini + 2 cups boiling water
¼ cup unsalted butter
8 oz. fresh crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tamari
½ cup each heavy cream + crème fraiche (or sour cream)
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Soak the porcini in the boiling water until very soft. When the mushrooms are soft, remove them from the liquid. Set the liquid aside and chop the mushrooms.

Melt the butter in a wide skillet until foaming, then add the porcini and crimini mushrooms. Season with salt and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and cook briefly until it no longer has a raw flour smell, then add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, being careful to leave any grit behind. Add the tamari and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the meatballs to the sauce, stir in the heavy cream and crème fraiche or sour cream, and cook until reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then add the parsley just before serving, reserving a bit to sprinkle on top.

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