I really like the taste of Swedish meatballs, but one drawback of making the dish is the time-consuming process of rolling all of those little meatballs. So, in the interest of time and convenience, I decided to transform the dish into a meatloaf. I realize there are many variations in the spices people use when making Swedish meatballs; I have used the combination I like the best, which I gleaned from the advice of cooks who have a Swedish background.
The sauce used for Swedish meatballs can also vary. I have made a sour cream sauce that I believe complements the slight sweetness of the meatloaf itself. The mushrooms can be added at the cook's discretion—I know some people are not fond of mushrooms! The meatloaf can be served just as you would serve Swedish meatballs: over noodles or with potatoes.
For the meatloaf:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3/8 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon dill
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (80 to 85% lean is best)
- 1 egg
- 1 egg white
- 3 tablespoons milk
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 cup lowfat milk
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 cup white cooking wine (can substitute chicken broth)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
For the mushrooms (optional):
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- parsley, as a garnish
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- Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish and set it aside.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion to the skillet and cook it until it is tender.
- While the onion is cooking, combine the spices and breadcrumbs together in a large bowl. Once the onion is ready, dump it from the skillet into the bowl of breadcrumbs (set the skillet aside; you will use it again). Stir the onion and breadcrumbs until all the onion pieces are coated by the breadcrumbs.
- Add the ground beef, egg, egg white, and milk to the bowl. Combine everything together thoroughly by using either a large spoon or your hands.
- Put the meat mixture into the prepared baking dish, forming it into a loaf down the center of the pan (lengthwise). Place the meatloaf in the oven, uncovered, and set a timer for 25 minutes.
- While the meatloaf is cooking, take the skillet in which you cooked the onion and melt 3 tablespoons of butter in it over medium heat. Add the flour one tablespoon at a time, whisking each tablespoon into the butter before adding the next one. Let this mixture brown slightly (it will be more of a golden color). Then, start adding the milk a little bit at a time, whisking the mixture constantly so that you maintain a smooth paste that is not burning on the bottom.
- Once the milk has been all added, reduce the heat to medium-low. Slowly add the half-and-half, still whisking the mixture gently to keep it smooth with no lumps. Stir in the white cooking wine next, then the black pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer 2 to 3 minutes before stirring in the sour cream a couple of tablespoons at a time.
- (For the optional mushrooms: While making the sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the mushrooms. Cover the skillet and cook the mushrooms until tender, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking. When the sauce is ready, pour the excess juices off the mushrooms, then add them to the sauce.)
- When your timer for the meatloaf rings, pull the baking dish out of the oven and pour the sauce over the meatloaf. Make sure the sauce covers the meatloaf entirely; some of the sauce will run down into the sides of the pan. Cover the baking dish with foil, then return it to the oven to cook the meatloaf for at least 20 more minutes. It may need a few minutes longer than that due to variations in individual oven temperatures. (Check the meatloaf to make sure it is done before serving it. Consuming under-cooked ground beef is not advisable.) Sprinkle with fresh or dried parsley before serving.
- I prefer the onion in this dish to be in larger pieces. If you find the size I have suggested here to be too large for your taste, simply mince the onion instead of chopping it.
- You can use this recipe to make meatballs instead of the meatloaf. Make sure to mince the onion rather than chop it in that case, for the meatballs do not form well if the onion pieces are too large. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Roll the meat mixture into one-inch balls, then drop them into the heated skillet. Cover the skillet for three or four minutes and let them cook. Turn the meatballs over, re-cover, and allow them to finish cooking (at least another four or five minutes). Test one of the last ones you put in the pan to make sure they are cooked all the way through, then transfer them with a slotted spoon, a few at a time, into the pan of sauce. Once the meatballs are all in the sauce, stir gently to cover them completely in the sauce.
- Cardamom (also spelled cardamon) is a wonderful aromatic spice from Asia that is not frequently used in American cooking. Though typically found in breads, desserts, and chai tea, it can also be added to savory dishes such as this meatloaf. If you bought cardamom specifically for this recipe and want another way to use it, please check out my recipe for Pecan Spice Holiday Coffee Cake.