Winter is almost upon us, and though we are well-entrenched in our little bunker because of COVID19 preventative measures, we are yearning to cocoon even more. It’s the holidays, and the cold weather, and the early dark nights that turn us toward candles, twinkly lights and the warm kitchen. We will be doing some holiday baking this weekend, but first we need some nourishing and reassuring hot food.
The Scandinavians have a healthy approach to winter – they embrace the cold weather and make things bright and colorful – defying the gloom of early nightfall. I like to think about bright red wooden Swedish horses, and filling-destroying Swedish fish candy. Swedish comfort food – husmanskost – is hot and hearty. Pour yourself a cup of glogg and warm yourself by your virtual fire. https://www.thespruceeats.com/traditional-glogg-recipe-3510987
Yes, mournful, soul-searching Inspector Kurt Wallander was depressed, and had to solve multiple murders in the beautiful, but austere, Swedish countryside. He might have been less gloomy had he tasted our variation on Svenska Kottbullar, Swedish Meatballs instead of pizza at Bröderna M. I like to think that our meatballs are tastier than IKEA’s, but I haven’t been to an IKEA for a long time. Until the pandemic subsides, and we are free to roam around again, homemade will have to do. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/216564/swedish-meatballs-svenska-kottbullar/
A friend of mine used to make several crockpots-ful for her annual Christmas soirée. I hope she knows how to scale back production this year, otherwise she will be eating them all winter long – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Swedish meatballs are slightly more elegant than meatloaf. The American humorist Jean Shepherd waxed poetical about his mother’s meatloaf, she of “rump-sprung chenille bathrobe” ignominy. I used to listen to Shepherd on the radio as he spun his tales growing up in Depression-era Indiana. Shepherd achieved fame with his A Christmas Story, this is the appropriate season to serve up some childhood meatloaf. I have found that you can never improve on your own mother’s recipe. No one else ever makes it taste like home, and memories, however slightly the actual ingredients deviate from house to house. Perhaps you would like to try Ralphie’s Mother’s Braised Red Cabbage, useful as a pungent palate cleanser for my cloying nostalgia:
1 medium-size red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 bacon slices, diced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 apples, peeled and diced
3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
* Toss together cabbage, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
* Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium high flame for 10 minutes or until just crisp.
* Add onion to bacon and sauté another 5 minutes or until tender.
* Stir in cabbage mixture, apples, red wine, sugar and garlic to onion and bacon mixture in the pot. Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 30 to 35 minutes, adding a splash of water, if necessary.
* Makes 6 servings.
– – Recipe courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios
Meatloaf scene from The Christmas Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0dUmykdtJA
Which is a natural segue to Shepherd’s Pie! It’s warm, steamy, and topped with irresistible mashed potatoes. It uses up leftovers! It makes you eat vegetables! It is loaded with calories that you will effortlessly burn off while shoveling your neighbor’s walk, because it’s the right thing to do. (Not being huge lamb fans we make this with ground beef. Heresy, I know.) https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/gordon-ramsay-s-shepherd-pie-50161080
Warm yourselves. Merry Christmas from the Spy Test Kitchen!
“If I could work my will every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”