Swedish Meatballs

It hasn’t been dinner as usual at the Our Life in Meals household recently. During the past few weeks, Jan sent me updates (and photos) of various barbecue eaten across the Southwestern United States as he fought forest fires in Texas and Arkansas (driving there and back and seeming to stop at every barbecue joint along the way). Needless to say, I’ve gone through a few rotisserie chickens and boxes of cereal (not for the same meal, of course) while he was gone.

And because I’d let several weeks go by without posting to Our Life in Meals, the harder it became to begin again. Even once Jan returned home, I felt that we had to prepare some amazing meal for me to break the ice.

But it turned out that a seemingly standard dinner might do the trick when Jan and I combined our heritage to prepare one of the best meals we’ve had in months. Continue reading

Attack of the Hamburball

I love homemade hamburgers for many reasons. I’ll stick with the top two. First, I can load up all my favorite toppings and sauces without someone charging me an arm and a leg for a piece of bacon, slice of cheese, or dollop of guacamole. Second, we buy beef chuck or sirloin and use our meat grinder attachment to make our own ground beef, so we have a lot better idea of what’s actually in there.   

Prepping the meat for the grinder

There’s only one problem. It’s not how they taste, they’re great in their simplicity and freshness (just salt, pepper, onion, and soy sauce), it’s forming the hamburger patties where we run into trouble. When you go out for a hamburger, the patties are perfectly shaped and evenly sized. I don’t have a problem with imperfect patties aesthetically, it’s just that our patties don’t turn out much like patties at all. They’re more like meatballs. Hence my need to come up with a more appropriate name for the hamburgers served at our house.   

I started with the name “meatball-ger,” but that didn’t roll off the tongue very easily. Next came “hamburball,” which I think is perfect. It sounds like one of the evil Bond movie villains, which encapsulates a bit of how I view the hamburball, especially after I learned that Jan was making the patties this way on purpose. Here I was this whole time, thinking, gosh, I wish Jan would just take out my rolling-pin and make those patties look gorgeous. But no, he said he wanted them that way. That the meat was juicier, or thicker in the middle, or something.

Ready for patty-making

But I had to disagree. If you’ve got something shaped like a football, it’s going to cook a lot less evenly than its flying-saucer-shaped counterpart. Besides, how was I going to load up all my toppings (even with a thin bun) and end up with a burger less than three inches tall? To me, an impossible-to-eat burger is on the same scale as a James Bond nemisis.

The whole dinner party debated this topic as we constructed our own burgers from all the fixings: Pickles, mayo, mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, guacamole, bacon, cheese, onions, and tomatoes. The goal had been to create an “American” feast for my friend Carina visiting from Sweden, and we might have been successful in that. After all, once we’d moved on from the burger and bun conversation, we discussed the Jerry Springer Show in great depth. And you can’t get any more American than that.

Burger construction