Meatballs, Danish style

Near the top of my list of dream places to travel (second, actually) is Denmark, or really, Scandinavia generally. Back when I had cable, I used to watch a show about the Baltic Coast every morning while I made my breakfast, and I fell in love with the beauty of the area. Additionally, my great-grandfather emigrated from Denmark, so I grew up hearing about my Danish heritage from my mom.

Chopping onions really small
Chopping onions really small

My sister had a short layover in Copenhagen when she visited Europe last month, and she brought me back a recipe book from Denmark. The food is beautiful, and I would especially like to try some of the fish dishes. However, my sister wanted me to make her something from the book, and she does not like seafood.

Bread crumbs, pork, and onions
Bread crumbs, pork, and onions

The recipe book states that Danish meatballs “may very well be the national dish of Denmark,” and says that every Dane has a family recipe variation. I knew my sister would like the tasty, flattened patties of pork.

With gravy, of course
With gravy, of course

“Frikadeller,” as they are called in Danish (my boyfriend speaks Danish and very much likes to say Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish words with the correct pronunciation) are not really round like the Italian variety. Rather, the instructions say to flatten the patties. To me, they resembled very small sliders.

Frikadeller and potatoes
Frikadeller and potatoes

I am pretty familiar with Swedish meatballs (of the IKEA variety), and I was curious as to the difference. The wise Internet tells me the real difference is that Danish meatballs always have pork. My boyfriend told me he had reindeer meatballs while living in Sweden — does anyone have some hookups for ground reindeer?

Frikadeller, gravy, potatoes, and my sister's thoughtful gift.
Frikadeller, gravy, potatoes, and my sister’s thoughtful gift.

The meatballs were savory and, with the ground pork, incredibly moist. They were good for a weeknight, and this dish is for sure going in my regular rotation. My sister said she likes these better than Swedish meatballs (that’s our Danish heritage coming out). I found the potato side dish online, small fingerlings with a caramelized sugar glaze.

Danish Meatballs (Frikadeller)
1 lb ground pork (can also mix 1/2 lbs ground beef and 1/2 pounds ground pork, or half veal and half pork)
1/2 cup grated or diced really small
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup whole  milk
5 tbs butter

For Gravy:
Drippings from the meatballs
butter (as needed)
1-2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup heavy cream, half & half, or whole milk
salt & pepper

In a small bowl, beat the eggs well. In a separate bowl, mix the minced meat, breadcrumbs, and chopped onions together until well blended. Mix in the beaten egg. It is easier to use your hands rather than a spoon.

Add the milk, salt and pepper to the bowl and continuing mixing until all the ingredients are blended to make a soft, moist mixture. This might take a bit of time; I was worried there was too much milk, but it ended up OK in the end!

Refrigerate the mixture for 15-30 minutes. This really helps soak up the milk.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Form 16-20 small patties about 1.5 inches across, and slide the mixture onto the pan. Cook in batches of four or five for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until golden brown. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Keep the pan drippings when you are finished for the gravy.

For the gravy
Add the flour to the drippings to form a roux, adding butter if necessary. Slowly add milk or cream until mixture reaches gravy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.


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