Monday, June 24, 2013
How to: make enough Swedish meatballs for 40 people
After four years of making too many meatballs to count, with frequent requests of "How do you actually do all of this?" ---I thought I'd share my meatball-making secrets!
1. The first step in making an obscene amount of anything is figuring out what you need and how many recipes will satisfy a particular crowd. Alton Brown's swedish meatball recipe, the one I've adapted, estimates 30 meatballs per recipe. If I have 45 people coming to a party, I'd like each of them to get about 8 large meatballs, meaning I want to make about 360 meatballs. This means making 12 batches. Which sounds like a lot, and let's not joke around here, it is a lot. The good thing is his recipe scales pretty easily up to a quadruple batch, and while you can't actually blend all of that meat at once, you can do it in batches and mix in a stockpot. If I had one of the giant low and wide 5 gallon stainless bowls, I would use that, but I don't. Once you know how many batches you're making, you can go ahead and figure out what you need. 8 yolks per quadruple batch, yikes, that's a lot of yolks. Good thing egg whites freeze well, I see many summer pavlovas in my future! To make this many meatballs, you also need 9 pounds each of ground pork and ground beef. Also, word to the wise, Trader Joe's apparently doesn't sell ground pork. Ridiculous.
2. Separate the mixing and the making. I mise-en-placed all of the ingredients and then individually mixed three quadruple batches separately. The whole procedure took about four hours (this includes doing all of the dishes).
3. Bake meatballs in mini-muffin tins. Yes, they will be slightly muffin shaped, but if you've ever had to pan-fry meatballs, not even 400 of them, you know that it is a greasy, thankless, hot, and awful task. Just say no. Use a cookie scoop to dispense meat material directly into the wells of the mini-muffin tin, place tins on top of a cookie sheet, and bake (mini muffin tins don't sit well on the grating of oven racks, and this also prevents against the rare spillage event). Store directly in 9x13 oven-safe pans so they can go directly in the oven the day of the party to gently reheat.
4. Gravy is a must. After every batch, empty the meatball liquid/grease directly into a stockpot, and then after you're finished, slowly (SLOWLY) whisk in flour to make a roux, and then add beef stock and cream or milk to make it fabulous.
4. Do not bake them the day of the event. The nice thing about meatballs is that they keep well. Make them the day before, and then the day of, put them in the oven on the lowest temperature about two hours before eating, stir them every so often, and you're set.
Without further ado, the recipe!
Ingredients (makes approximately 120 small meatballs)
8 egg yolks
240 grams whole milk (1 cup)
600 grams onion, pureed in a food processor (about four medium onions)
5 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper (about 80 grinds on a standard pepper grinder)
2f teaspoons freshly ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
240 grams breadcrumbs
3 pounds ground beef
3 pounds ground pork
125 grams all purpose flour (1/2 cup)
6 cups beef broth
113 grams heavy cream (1/2 cup)
1. Whisk eggs in a large stock pot. Add milk and mix thoroughly.
2. Add onion and spices; mix thoroughly.
3. Add breadcrumbs and allow to sit for at least five minutes.
4. Beat meat in four separate batches in a mixer with the paddle attachment, for about 2 minutes each time. After each is done, incorporate into egg/onion/breadcrumb/milk mixture.
5. Allow to rest overnight in a covered container.
6. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
7. Use a cookie scoop to scoop meatball mixture into wells of mini muffin tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until done and there's a bit of color.
(3 tins make 36 meatballs, if you have 6 tins total, it will take you approximately two hours to make all the meatballs)
8. When you remove meatballs from mini muffin tins, pour grease/meatball liquid into a stockpot for the gravy.
9. When you're finished making meatballs, heat meatball liquid/grease in stockpot to medium.
10. Add flour and whisk until combined and lightly browned.
11. Gradually add stock and cream and cook until gravy reaches desired consistency.