09 August 2007

Blue Plate Special

The story of this dinner starts the week before I actually made it. Last Saturday, Zach and I got up at 9, determined to make it to the the Arlington Farmers' Market before all the good stuff was gone. It had been far too long since I had been to a farmer's market and Zach had never really been to one in DC and since my inner food-hippie is starting to come out, we decided to make a morning of it.

Even though it's the middle of summer and I knew there would be all sorts of fruit and veg I was most excited about meat. I know- it seems a bit strange to go to a farmers' market to buy meat but two local farms that humanely raise chickens, beef, pork and lamb have stands at the market and I wanted to give them a try. [After stints of vegetarianism in the past I have come to the conclusion that I'm just not that committed- and Zach really likes to eat meat. As the compromise we are trying to eat only naturally and humanely raised critters.]

So we strapped the cooler on the back of my bike and headed to the market. After buying a week's worth of fruit and veg we headed to the stand run by Eco-Friendly Foods and stood there looking at the vacu-packed products waiting for inspiration- it went something like this,

"Well, what should we have?"

"I don't know. What do you want?"
"I'm not sure... well we could-"

"Yeah we could."

"Why not"

"We'll take a pound of ground pork please."

The lady behind the table gave us a rather odd look at this point and asked what we would be making and we answered 'Danish Meatballs' and got another strange look in reply. Danish Meatballs (frikadeller) are quite distinct from their Swedish counterparts in that they have no gravy and are instead cooked in a pan till browned and served (at least in my host family) with boiled potatoes and a white sauce (on the potatoes, not the meatballs). In the effort of both making dinner a bit more healthy and using up what was in the fridge, I decided, a week later (don't worry, the ground pork came frozen and had been in the freezer the whole time) to make the meatballs and serve them with the potatoes we got at the farmers market (sans white sauce) and a carrot salad.

The frikadeller themselves are very simple to make, simply blend together the pork, milk, onion, egg, flour, salt, pepper and spices, let sit for 30 minutes if you have the time, and fry up in a bit of butter and oil. The only really special thing is that the onion gets grated instead of chopped; the result is a meatball that is crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and smooth, without pesky bits of undercooked onion poking out everywhere.

Marjoram has always been my spice of choice since that is what my host dad always uses, but my marjoram went missing in the move and as I didn't realize it until I was halfway done with dinner (does this happen to anyone else besides me?) some Spanish smoked paprika came on as a pinch hitter. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they came out; the paprika gave the meatballs a smoky quality reminiscent of chorizo and the pork itself actually had flavor, which I think can be sadly lacking in mass-market pork. We'll definitely be visiting the market again next week to try out another meat.

Danish Meatballs (Frikadeller)
For 16 meatballs (to serve 4 for dinner or to serve 2 for dinner and lunch the next day)

1 lb. ground pork
1 small onion, shredded on a box grater
1/4-1/2 c. of milk
1 spoonful of flour
1 egg
1 tsp. smoked paprika
a few pinches of salt
pepper to taste

- Put the pork in a medium bowl. Grate the onion on top and add in a spoonful of flour (I use a soup spoon and take a scoop out of the flour bin) and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

- The mixture should be quite soft, soft enough to get a good mix going so add more milk if needed.

- Let the mix rest for at least 30 minutes.

- Heat up your frying pan over medium heat. Add a knob of butter and a bit of oil. When the pan is hot, dip a soup spoon and your hand in water. Use the spoon to scoop up some of the meat mix and use the spoon and the palm of the opposite hand to make a little football-shaped meatball.

-Arrange the meatballs in the pan and cook until golden brown on the bottom. Use two spoons (the mix is too soft to use tongs on) to flip and then good until golden on the other side.

- Drain on paper towels if desired and serve immediately.
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