Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Danish Meatballs

When I was little, my mom had a set of 18 McCall's cookbooks. I adored thumbing through each and every one. I loved the pictures, especially in the cookie, cake and dessert books. That same set of books is mine now. They're like old friends. They're tattered and worn, but I still love thumbing through them.

When I was in junior high school, my mom went back to work. I suddenly found myself in charge of making dinner one or two nights a week, but I had very little cooking experience. One of my first cooking attempts was Danish Meatballs from volume 6 of that old McCall's set...the "Book of Marvelous Meats". It seemed like an easy enough recipe at the time, but I quickly found out that my lack of cooking expertise was a bit of a problem. Browning meatballs in a skillet turned out to be much harder than I anticipated. The meatballs fell apart, so I scrambled the hamburger mixture together instead. The gravy ended up as a lumpy, doughy, salty mess. And I served this disastrous meal to my poor parents. My dad, I'm sure not wanting to hurt my feelings, managed to eat this awful concoction, but my mom just couldn't do it, and who could blame her? I remember how upset I was that I had made such a terrible meal, but now it's a story that makes my mom and I laugh when it comes up.

Fast forward to present day. I'm happy to report that I am a much better cook than back then (fortunately for my husband). I still can't fry a meatball in a skillet worth a darn (hey, we all have our issues), but baking meatballs works out just fine and dandy.

When our Retro Recipe Redo challenge came up, I decided it was time to redeem myself. So I made that old Danish Meatball recipe and it turned out great. This is what I would call a "comfort food" recipe, especially when served along with some good ol' mashed potatoes and a veggie.

Danish Meatballs
by Susan W.
Adapted from McCall's Book of Marvelous Meats (1965)
Makes approximately 18 meatballs

For the meatballs:
2 pounds ground chuck
1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon mace (nutmeg is a good substitute)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tablespoons butter

For the sauce:
2 teaspoons beef flavored Better Than Bouillon (equal to 2 cubes regular bouillon)
2 Tablespoons drippings from meatballs
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups boiling water
Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley for garnish.

For the meatballs:
In a large bowl, combine together the ground chuck, Italian parsley, chopped onion, salt, pepper, mace (or nutmeg) and 1/4 cup of the flour. Add the milk and egg and mix well. Refrigerate for one hour.

One the mixture has chilled, preheat your oven to 375°F. Form the meat mixture into 18 equal sized meatballs. Roll each meatball in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and set aside on a plate.

On a large baking sheet lined with foil, place the 2 Tablespoons of butter and put into the preheated oven to melt. Once the butter has melted, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Distribute melted butter evenly and place the meatballs on the baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Bake meatballs for 35 minutes, or until done, turning once halfway through. When they are done, remove to a heat-proof dish and keep warm.

For the sauce:
In a bowl, stir together the Better Than Bouillon, 2 Tablespoons of the meatball drippings, and the flour. Gradually whisk in 2 cups of boiling water. Pour into a saucepan and heat until smooth and thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. The Better Than Bouillon (or regular bouillon also, for that matter) already tends to be a bit salty, so be careful how much extra salt you add.

Spoon some of the sauce over the meatballs, sprinkle on some parsley for garnish and have the remaining sauce on the table for spooning over the meatballs or even over mashed potatoes!

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