Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)

Sunday was a cold, wet, wintery day and I woke up with meatballs on my mind. I was very specifically in the mood for Frikadeller – Danish meatballs in a delectable cream sauce. I had recently viewed a slideshow in the food section of the New York Times dedicated to ‘the meatball’ and all of those images of yummy bite-sized morsels of goodness must have infiltrated my brain.

After a Sunday morning shopping trip, Caleb and I rolled up our sleeves and got to cooking our Frikadeller. As I was taking pictures, one of my all-time favorite sound bites came out of Caleb’s mouth…”Momma, can I press the ‘cheese button’ on the camera?” I will now and forever call the shutter release the “cheese button!”

I first learned of Frikadeller on a trip to visit my family in Denmark over 10 years ago. I had been there several times in my life, but this was my most recent trip, which included Mateo who hadn’t yet met my Danish relatives.

First…how I have family in Denmark. My aunt Edie (my mom’s sister) and my uncle Labe moved from Los Angeles to Denmark with three small boys, when Labe was offered a research position in Copenhagen in the early sixties. My first cousins: Jon, Andy, and Tim grew up in Denmark and now have beautiful (huge understatement) families of their own. Our families remain incredibly close and share many values in common such as: the importance of family, cooking and eating delicious food, sense of humor, being a mensch / making the world a better place, and so forth.

The Pape Family in Denmark

Okay, so back to the Frikadeller. When Mateo and I were visiting my cousins, we – in true Anya fashion – ate our way across the country. One of my favorite meals, enjoyed in a small café in the seaside town of Dragør, was a warm plate of Danish meatballs served over red potatoes. This food resonated deeply inside of me. It tasted like the food my people should be eating.

I haven’t made (or, even thought much about) these delicious meatballs since our visit to Denmark. But, something about the wet wintery day, this past weekend, brought the delicious recipe to mind.

What I learned from making Frikadeller for the first time is that it’s an incredibly kid-friendly dish – both to make and to eat. I also learned not to leave my two-year-old daughter unattended with a set of watercolors while I’m cooking with Caleb in the kitchen! The final (and not at all insignificant) observation is that Sadie is now clearly ready to step up to the stove. She joined Caleb on the “cooking chair” for the first time and I felt so proud as she stirred the meatballs in the pot with a long wooden spoon. I see this as a hugely important right-of-passage in my family…both for my son and my daughter.

My “Meatballs”

Recipe: Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)

Inspired by the New York Times recipe for Finnish Meatballs.

These taste exactly how I remember them (or perhaps even better!)

Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

¾ cup whole milk
3 slices white bread, crusts removed
1½ cups loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely minced

3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
½ cup flour
¾ cup chicken broth
¼ cup vegetable oil, or as needed
½ cup heavy cream

Method

1. Warm the milk in a saucepan or microwave just until steaming. Remove from heat and press bread into the milk; set aside.

2. In large bowl, add parsley, garlic, eggs, salt, black pepper and allspice. Stir well to combine. Add ground beef, sausage, and milk-soaked bread. Knead by hand or mix with a large wooden spoon until well-blended.

3. Spread flour on a plate. Roll meat mixture into 1½-inch balls, and roll in flour to coat. Place a Dutch oven over very low heat, and add broth. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.

4. Working in batches, add enough meatballs to loosely fill pan. Sear for about 1 minute, then shake pan to turn meatballs. Continue until well browned on all sides, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Transfer meatballs to Dutch oven and allow them to gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring carefully from time to time. Add cream and heat just until warmed. If desired, serve with small potatoes (my favorite) or egg noodles that have been tossed with butter and parsley.

Yield: 8 servings.