Frikadeller, Danish Meatballs by Larry Andersen


Danish Meatballs

A story we read in grammar school was about a little girl, her immigrant Swedish mother, Swedish meatballs and a pot luck dinner. The child brought home the written request from the school for the parents to provide a dish for the schools pot luck dinner. The little girls friends at school told her of all the elegant and fancy foods that their parents were going to provide for the dinner. The little girl was distraught. Her mother told her she was going to make Swedish meatballs for the dinner. To the little girl this was a tragedy because she thought of the meatballs as a prosaic thing. She had them frequently and now her mother was going to present the common side of her life at home while everyone else was going to bring fancy food.

The point of the story was that what we take for granted, in this case a hearty meal of Swedish meatballs, can be elegant and exotic and well received by every one else. This was the case in the story. Everyone loved and raved about the meatballs and the girl, in the end, was proud to take home the only clean pan. The pot luck participants had eaten to the very last meatball. The Swedish meatballs how won out over the fluff of fancy fare provided by the other children.

Unless you are talking about Hans Christian Andersen, almost anyone who hears the name Andersen thinks it must be Swedish and almost instinctively changes the spelling to Anderson. I to this date dont know why. It is just one of those things that you become inured to as a child, always having to spell your name, stressing the e so others would know who you really were. After all, the Danes have Hans Christian and the little mermaid on the rock in Copenhagen harbor. What do the Swedes have? They have Swedish meatballs. Well then, I wanted Danish meatballs!

The running joke that 1950's summer at Aunt Margies house was that henceforth all references to Swedish meatballs would be changed. I had my Danish meatballs at last. It was only some years later that I learned that there really was a dish called Danish meatballs. It was called Frikadeller. Taking into consideration variations in a given recipe, as far as I can tell Danish and Swedish meatballs are one in the same. So, in the end, I guess what we really have are Scandinavian meatballs instead. Nonetheless, I still love my Frikadeller.

Aunt Margie had a collection of cast iron cookware. You know the kind. They were bumpy and grainy on the outside but inside they were seasoned with mirror smooth, glossy black coatings. It took years of tender care to build up those almost Teflon-like surfaces. One of those large, weight-lifter heavy pans was perfect for Danish meatballs. Aunt Margie added a spoonful of bacon drippings from the little container of clarified drippings that was always on the stove. And, while she was frying the last batch of meatballs, she added a couple of spoonfuls of the meat mixture she held back. This would add to the brown bits in the pan for the gravy. When the last meatballs had been removed from the pan, she carefully poured off the fat leaving 2 tablespoons of drippings and the brown bits behind.

She seasoned with 2 teaspoons of dill weed. As a kid, I was not all that enthused with the dill weed. I still like the meatballs but liked less dill. Today I add 1 teaspoon of dill but the Frikadeller are great without any dill at all.

Preparation: 1 hour 30 minutes Life Experience Recipe
Makes 4 main or 6 side dishes Margie A. Gilliland
Meatball Ingredients:
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon oil, for frying
Gravy Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper, to taste of course
  • 2 tablespoons meat drippings
  • 2 14-ounce can chicken broth
  • 1 or2 teaspoons dill weed
  1. Finely chop onion. Add to beef, pork egg and milk. Add seasonings. Mix to incorporate all ingredients. Add bread crumbs and mix just enough to make a uniform mixture.
  2. Form the meat mixture into 1-inch balls. Place a rounded tablespoonful of the meat mixture in the palm of your hand. Roll gently between both palms forming a ball. Just roll the ball but do not compress or squeeze any more than just needed to make the balls.
  3. In batches, cook the meatballs in a large frying pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. Gently turn the meatballs to cook on all sides until nicely browned. Remove to rack or paper towel to drain. Repeat until all meatballs are cooked.
  4. Remove 2 tablespoons fat from the fry pan and reserve. Drain off remaining fat but leave brown bits. Place pan over medium heat. Return reserved fat and add 2 tablespoons butter. When melted, add flour. Stir and cook to make roux and incorporate brown bits left in the pan. Cook until roux is light brown, about 10 minutes. Slowly add chicken broth in batches stirring well to make smooth mixture between additions. Taste and add salt if needed. Add dill weed. Continue cooking and stirring until gravy thickens. Fold in sour cream. Return meatballs to frying pan, stirring, until heated through. Remove from heat. Place in serving bowl and add a generous sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper.

I personally like the meatballs and this light colored gravy served over wide egg noodles. The meatballs do, however, go equally well with boiled new potatoes, mashed potatoes or rice. The meatballs freeze well and are still just as good after reheating.

It is a national dish in Denmark, served with potatoes, preserved sour vegetables and thick brown sauce. It has been popular in Denmark for a very long time. An old cookbook from 1648 describes a frikadeller dish. The Danes eat the meal all year round as a traditional main dish, in fact one might have reason to say frikadeller is the Danes favorite dish of all.

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Latest revision done August 2009
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