The Rewards Of Cooking Meatballs

As mundane as it might seem, cooking meatballs can make you a celebrity. Just about everyone loves them, and if you put a little extra effort into making them, your meatballs may become famous far and wide. In fact, there’s something special about Swedish meatballs. Just the mention of them will make mouths water, and if you’re not careful, friends will be inviting themselves over to dinner if they know you’re planning to prepare and serve them.

The meatball is a rather humble thing, consisting of ground meat and some bread crumbs and perhaps a few spices, or bits of onion. They really don’t have to be fancy. Most people enjoy the most basic meatballs one can cook. Sliced, they’re even great in sandwiches. Of course a little gravy can make a big difference, and should be on the table whenever meatballs are served.

If you’re planning on cooking meatballs for the first time, here’s a very basic recipe. It was mentioned above that a meatball was basically ground meat, breadcrumbs, and some onion. There’s a little more to it, though not all that much.

The Basic Ingredients – Start with 2 pounds of ground meat. Beef is usually used, but you can use most any meat. Elk, venison, bison, moose, and veal are all great. You can even make fish balls if you wish, but let’s stick to meat to begin with, and you can’t go wrong with ground beef. Don’t use too lean a beef or your end product may seem a bit dry. Use ground meat that has a little fat to it.

Place the ground beef in a large bowl, add a cup of chopped onion, 1/4 cup of milk, and a large egg. Sprinkle in 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs, seasoned ones will be best. Add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of salt and pepper. Some like to add a tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil to the mix.

This is your basic mixture. If you want to experiment at this stage, try adding some chopped garlic or other herbs, or you can wait until you see how your “basic” meatballs have turned out before getting too fancy. With all the ingredients in the mixing bowl, start slowly mixing it all together. A wooden spoon somehow seems proper, but any utensil that will do a good job is fine.

Forming And Baking – When it’s all mixed together, take out a spoonful at a time. The size of the spoon is only important in terms of the size of the meatball you want. Swedish meatballs are generally fairly small, and bite-sized meatballs seem to have the greatest appeal to many. Anyway, take the spoonful of mixture and form a round meatball with it. Either wear gloves or wash your hands first, as the easiest way to form a meatball is by rolling the mixture between the palms of your hands.

Arrange your little round creations on a greased baking pan, stick them in the oven (preheated to 400 degrees), and bake them until they turn golden brown, which usually takes about 20 minutes.

You can serve the meatballs right out of the oven, or if you want, serve them in a soup or stew. If you do this, it’s best to sauté them first to form a crust, so they don’t fall apart. Assuming your initial attempt at cooking meatballs was a great success, and it’s admittedly a little difficult to ruin them, try adding nutmeg, oregano, parsley, or Parmesan cheese to the mixture the next time around.

Swedish Meatballs – If you want to give Swedish meatballs a try, the major differences are that Swedish meatballs usually contain about 4 tablespoons of butter to two pounds of meat, and are often made with moose meat (called elk in Sweden). The sauce is a little special too. If you don’t want to go through all that trouble, get a couple of pounds, frozen, at IKEA, and you’ll soon understand the Swedish meatball’s popularity.