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Gently simmering on the stove in a bath of homemade gravy with an aroma that drives you to the table in anticipation, with fork and knife in hand, is every memory I have of kjøttkaker (Norwegian meatballs). There’s something so irresistible and comforting about these meatballs that always leaves one satisfied and looking forward to the next time they’ll be served again.
Meatballs might be one of the most well-known Nordic dishes, with variations found in other countries as well. There’s something about the meatball that makes Norwegians, like their Nordic neighbors, hold it such high regard. In fact, kjøttkaker was a top contender for Norway’s national dish – just being topped by fårikål, a dish of slow-cooked lamb and cabbage.
Norwegian meatballs tend to be a little larger than other variations. A brun saus “brown gravy” made of browning butter and flour always encompasses them and they are spiced with warm spices that add to the overall warmth you get with each bite. Sometimes, a few slices of brown cheese, Brunost, are tossed into the gravy for a little more robust flavor.
This led to me to consider adding brown cheese to the meatballs themselves, rather than the gravy. What resulted was a soft and supple, savory and juicy meatball with a burst of creamy brown cheese. As the meatballs cook, the juices flavor the gravy providing the best of both worlds. This is certainly a dish that will keep everyone satisfied and coming back for more.
Kjøttkaker is best served with boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam, and either stewed peas or creamed cabbage. You can easily double the recipe or make the meatballs larger in size if you prefer.
Norwegian Brown Cheese Meatballs (Kjøttkaker med Brunost)
Serves 4 (about 20 meatballs)
For the meatballs:
- 1 ¼ pounds (500 g) minced/ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ small onion, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- ½ cup (120 ml) milk
- 3 ½ ounces (100 g) Ski Queen®/Gudbrandsdalen, grated
- 2 tablespoons potato starch/potetmel
- 1 tablespoon oil, for cooking
For the brown sauce:
- 4 tablespoons (56 g) butter
- 4 tablespoons (56 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (480 ml) beef stock
- ¼ teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs, except the oil, with your hands to ensure everything is blended together. Form about 20 meatballs.
In a large, heavy skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning, for 5 minutes or until brown on all sides.
For the brown sauce, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes or until dark brown – be careful not to burn the flour. Slowly add the beef stock, whisking to combine, and salt. Pour the sauce over the meatballs (I keep all the juices released from the meatballs as they brown) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve warm with boiled potatoes, a dab of lingonberry jam, if you have some, and vegetables of your choice.
If you wish to reheat the meatballs, just add a little more water or stock to thin out the gravy as it tends to thicken.
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