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08 May 2008

frikadeller is my new favorite word

veal frikadeller I

Long before I became pregnant, I was curious about other women’s food cravings. Popular culture says that we’ll all slaver over pickles and ice cream. But I don’t actually know any women who were desperate for either when they were pregnant.

Not me, certainly. I’ve always loved pickles anyway, but I’m much more excited by other pickled vegetables than cucumbers. Pickled sunchokes, red onions, asparagus spears? Yes. But mostly during this pregnancy, I can’t eat enough of anything with brine. This kid is going to be half made of olives, as far as I can tell. But ice cream? Eh. I had some marscapone gelato with Sharon last weekend, in Los Angeles, sitting outside in the warm air, stretching my feet in flip-flops toward the sun. That was good. But I don’t really need any more. Not yet, anyway.

Still, the cravings are real, even if they don’t happen at 3 a.m., as fast food commercials seem to suggest. I knew this had to be a biological truth when I heard about my sister-in-law’s one urgent craving, six years ago.

Pregnant with my dear nephew Elliott, Dana was rational and even-going. No sudden bursts of pregnancy hormones, at least that I know about. But she has never been like that anyway. However, one day, apparently, she needed food. She turned to my brother and said, “We have to drive to IKEA.” For no reason that either of them could discern, Dana needed Swedish meatballs from IKEA. Luckily, the vast furniture store wasn’t far away. They drove there, she ate a plate full of them, and then they went home.

This always made me laugh before.

But on Sunday, during dinner at Lucques with dear friends, I understood.

A Sunday supper at Lucques is an exquisite experience. Everyone gathered in the dining room, and the ivy-covered-walled patio space, sits patiently waiting for the same three-course meal. Suzanne Goin decided long ago to put the principles of local food from farmers’ markets into real restaurant working order. Meals here are made of simple, earthy food with fantastic tastes. And even with the most advanced techniques and unusual ingredients, the meal still manages to feel like a family gathering, Sunday slowness and everyone together. Good luck trying to get a reservation. It’s worth the work.

Luckily, Rachael (a peach of a woman) made reservations for us, weeks before. She also informed them, long in advance, that I would need to eat gluten-free. “No problem, natch,” she wrote me. That’s my experience as well. Choose a restaurant where everyone involved truly cares about food and how it is made? They will be able to make a gluten-free meal for you too.

The only (small) downside of eating a Sunday supper at Lucques, instead of a weeknight dinner, is that they serve a set menu. That makes the gluten-free options limited at times. Oh heck, I didn’t really need the cumin flatbread that accompanied the chickpea puree and roasted beet salad. And even though the vanilla custard tart with rum and candied kumquats looked great, my sorbet was more than adequate. However, when the waiter put the plate in front of Judy, my heart sank.

I wanted that veal frikadeller.

Frikadeller. Doesn’t it sound like a terrible insult? Sharon and I have decided to adopt it: “Geez, he’s such a frikadeller!” I had never heard of this dish before I looked up the Lucques supper menu online Sunday morning, already anticipating. Frikadeller? What? Turns out it’s a Danish meatball, made with any kind of mixed meats, flattened a bit, substantial. I love trying foods I have never eaten before.

Unfortunately, frikadeller is also made with bread crumbs. So when the plate arrived before my dear friend Judy, I started craving that crusty meatball on top of green risotto, with English peas and nasturtium butter. But I couldn’t. Breadcrumbs. No thank you. So I simply listened as Judy moaned, and then pushed her plate to the center of the table toward Sharon and Rachael so they could take tastes. Sympathetic to my plight, Judy wondered if I could take a taste of the risotto, away from the meatball. Not worth the chance. And besides, that’s not what I wanted.

I just had to imagine the taste.

That is, of course, until I reached home. “Hey sweetie? Have you ever heard of a frikadeller?”

I’ll never be able to go to IKEA and indulge in Swedish meatballs. And maybe it’s better that Lucques couldn’t serve me a gluten-free version. I might insist we drive all the way to Los Angeles for one more taste. This is where it helps to have a chef, if you’re a pregnant woman. Thanks to him, I can have these any time I need them.

And believe me, I need me some frikadeller, right now.

veal frikadeller II

Veal and pork frikadeller

Thanks to the Chef's generosity, you don't need to have one around the house to eat these too.

I’m pretty sure this recipe is only a template. As is always true of loved recipes made by hand, passed down from one mama to another, everyone adds a slightly different touch. We liked the taste of rosemary here, as well as a touch of nutmeg. Some of the recipes I looked through called for club soda, or milk, as a way to bind together the meats. The Chef doesn’t think you need it. The large frikadeller he made for me this afternoon, so that I could take photographs, and then have lunch, is pretty plain. And delicious.

The crust that forms on top from searing the meatball crunches with the fork. The meat inside tasted tender, like soft cloth. The combination of ground meats made my mouth keep guessing.

And by the way, if you make larger versions of these, they make unbelievable burgers on the grill. That’s what we’ll be having for dinner tonight, right around 11:30.

1 pound ground veal
½ cup pound ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped fine
¾ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon rosemary, chopped
½ teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
1 tablespoon canola oil

Preparing the frikadeller. Combine the meats together. Add the onion, breadcrumbs, rosemary, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and egg to the meats. Mix well with your hands. (Don’t be afraid to get those hands messy. You can always wash them after.) Stop mixing when the ingredients have become coherent.

Cooking the frikadeller. Preheat the oven to 500°. Bring a large skillet to heat. Add the canola oil. Take a large chunk of the meatball mixture (about the size of your palm) and roll it into a ball. When you have formed a perfect ball, flatten it a bit, both top and bottom. You should be able to fit four of these flattened balls into the skillet. Sear the meatballs for at least one minute, or until the bottom has browned. Turn the meatballs and sear the other side. Slide the skillet into the hot oven and allow them to cook until they have reached an internal temperature of 160°. (This should be about six to seven minutes, depending on your oven.)

Remove the frikadeller from the oven and serve, in any way you wish.

Feeds 4.


At 10:14 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Interesting, and it looks lovely! In Sweden, that would be a "pannbiff", whereas frikadeller is the word for really small meatballs, generally dropped in a soup. :)

At 10:27 PM, Blogger k said...

My Danish parents have always made frikadeller, as well as hakkekarbonader, which are ground pork burgers that are breaded. However, we tried an experiment once where we substituted the bread crumbs for crumbled up corn tortilla chips - yum! Adds a great crunch to the burgers or meatballs.

At 10:43 PM, Blogger Melanie said...

Shanna, great story and great new word. My husband and I have been coming up with new ways to curse; thanks for the suggestion. "Where the frikadeller did I put that skillet?"

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Kitt said...

Learn something new every day! When I saw the post title I thought frikadeller was some kind of made-up exclamation or expletive. "This dish is totally frikadeller!"

Looks frikalicious!

At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the way everyone's playing around with that word! So funny, like kittens batting around a catnip toy on a hardwood floor. I wonder if oat flakes could replace the breadcrumbs?

At 12:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Shauna,

You had me laughing as I don't think any Dane would recognise this as frikadeller :-) You've got the basics, and there are obviously lots of variations, so here's my take on them. The most common meat to use is port, half pork, half veal if you're "posh". The binding is usually flour, plain wheat flour used for baking, so obviously not your choice, but I'm sure you'll be able to find something else. Oh, and an egg or two. If you want to stretch the mix you add oats, in some families it's obviously important to make a little meat go a long way... In Denmark they're always fried until done, crisp on the outside, just done on the inside. You shape them with a soup spoon or similar. Dip it into your oil or butter, pick up a spoonful of the meat and shape into an oblong ball. When your frying pan or skillet is filled, you leave them until 1/2 done, then turn them over. To keep them warm you put them on their side in the skillet to make space for some more to lie flat.

This used to be a staple, and cheap food (hence the inclusion of veal being "posh"), so it's funny - and wonderful - to see this take on such a traditional dish.

And I should also mention that I really love your blog, your honesty, your love for the Chef and LB, good luck with it all!!!

At 3:18 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

IKEA has some gluten-free nut-based desserts. Almond Tort and Chocolate Tort.

At 3:31 AM, Blogger sweetpea said...

I have never had a frikadeller, but it is now on my list of things to try. The presentation of the meatball on the risotto beckons! I do make the best sweedish meatballs ever, without any ethnic connection. It was easy to revise the recipe using gluten free breadcrumbs!

At 5:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey you!
My grandmother made her hamburgers this way- only she used oregano. (the Russian grandmother)

I think ground flax seed meal is the best substitute- and so healthy- for breadcrumbs.

What would you call a meal that had both frikadeller and fricasee? Frickin' ggod?

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your CHEF is the BEST! Don't be jealous but we ALL love him TOO! What a "FRIKADELLER" couple you make!

At 6:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use mashed potato flakes for meatloaf and meatballs. It works, and it tastes the same. However, you need a little more of them as compared to bread crumbs.

Maybe Fuddruckers was named after those frikadellars!

At 7:26 AM, Blogger Carrie said...

that is a lovely new word!! I can't wait to try frikadeller's!! I bet these would be tasty with arepas!! We tried arepas several weeks ago since your post, and they are wonderful!! Thank you so much for sharing that experience! I loved the feel and touch of forming and shaping the arepas before adding them to the skillet! I can't wait to try these!

At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Danny, for re-creating the frikadelicious frikadeller -- otherwise I would be feeling a little guilty right now! Now I know why Shauna was asking me what I thought was in it with every mouthful!! (ps - I think there was parsley too but the rosemary sounds like a great idea). xxoo judy

At 9:16 AM, Blogger EB of SpiceDish said...

I think I pulled my frikadeller last week...

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

Whatta frikadeller home chef feller! You are so lucky, Shauna.

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm fascinated by food cravings. I love food - the growing, harvesting, buying, menu-planning, preparation, eating, and especially the connection between food and health. I read somewhere that chocolate cravings may be a sign of magnesium deficiency. Strangely, sometimes a food craving can be for something to which one is allergic. On the other hand, some cravings are obviously beneficial, like the craving for protein during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when protein requirements for the mother are dramatically increased.

So I wonder for what purpose is the infamous pickle craving during pregnancy? Here's what I think, and I'm curious if anyone knows more about this: Pickled foods are made traditionally by lacto-fermentation (using whey and salt) or with raw vinegar, all this before the routine use of pasteurization (which kills enzymes). Fermentation dramatically increases enzyme content, and enzymes are vital for digestion and all sorts of other bodily functions. (The pancreas produces enzymes and it appreciates any help it can get.)

I think it follows, then, that if you are eating more food in pregnancy, your body needs more enzymes to help digest the food. Fermented fruits and vegetables (not pasteurized) are the perfect solution!


PS - I learned much of this by reading "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. You can find her online at

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Eva Persson said...

Another substitution for bread crumbs would be ground nuts, provided your not allergic to nuts.
I avoid veal after learning how inhumanley the animals are treated in order to create it.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The strangest craving I ever had while pregnant was apples. For months, I couldn't get enough of fresh apples. Haven't cared for them much before or since.

That frikadeller looks so good.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger warzy said...

where do i find g.f. bread crumbs?? i live in the los angeles area and have not come across them. please don't tell me i have to make them from scratch. i'm not that ambitious or desperate!

At 7:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was pregnant with my first child (who is now ten), I craved canned peaches in heavy syrup.


Weird. But while my nausea whirled and twirled and occasionally um, spilled, those peaches never came up once.

And I later found out that my mother in law craved them when she was pregnant with my husband. Go figure!


At 12:16 PM, Blogger jill elise said...

This looks like what I need to eat RIGHT NOW!!! I am sending my chef boyfriend to buy ingredients and make it for me for dinner, I am lazy today. Thanks for dinner!!

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Tiffany said...

Oh my golly! I'm not pregnant, but I have to have one RIGHT NOW!!

At 4:47 PM, Blogger here I am! said...

funny the recipe has veal! I was just researching veal and the baby cow has such a miserable life. I have never eaten veal for that fact. They are kept in a box thier entire lives so they cant move and get tough tasting.
Maybe there is a better substitute for veal.

At 6:00 PM, Blogger kristy said...

my family hosted a danish exchange student when i was younger and he would make these for us sometimes. i LITERALLY asked my mom 2 days before you posted this if she still had the recipe because i was craving them and couldn't remember all the ingredients. he grated an onion into his so the onion and it's juice added to the flavor, so YUM, thank you for a gf version!

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Lauren L said...

When I was an exchange student in Germany during high school, my exchange "dad" made me for these one late night for supper. I still remember him teaching me the word, "Frikadelle" and the way that tiny kitchen smelled while he was cooking them. This was in Hamburg, so I always assumed it had something to do with our American conception of hamburgers... But apparently a connection to Denmark, which is not too far from Hamburg... Thanks for that memory!

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, I've never even heard of frikadeller before!


At 1:36 PM, Blogger Whimsy Valentine said...

sounds so yummy! i wonder if the almond meal from trader joes would work as a sub for the breadcrumbs?

i love that gelato place in silver lake.... mmmmm.... try their coconut sorbetto! (and town and country up the street is also delish!)

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Allison the Meep said...

This sounds delicious and hilarious all at once. Can't wait to try it!

Also, Happy Mother's Day!

At 12:20 PM, Blogger kate said...

Heh. My husband makes frickadellen for me every so often. His recipe doesn't have any bread crumbs- they're just garlicky-oniony meat patties served with a tomato-based sauce. He's from northern Germany and he says that this is a dish that they eat all the time (I guess it crossed the Danish border and set up residence in his tiny hometown...).

I frequently accuse the husband of making up words to trick us foolish Americans (he's a linguist, so I wouldn't put it past him to make up something), and basically any German word he uses that sounds too weird is game, so frickadellen is definitely a word I mock as often as I hear it. (I'm supposing at this point that fricka-dellen vs -deller reflects the German plural? Not sure...)

Thanks for posting this. I can't wait to try your version.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger momcan'tdance said...

I was just at a "bootin' gluten" class at our local Whole Foods and the chef used thin rice crackers whirled up in a food processor for the gluten free crab cakes he was making. I'm sure they'd work equally well for the frikadeller!

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a student in Denmark, we used to eat these every once in awhile. I especially remember them being what you took along to a picnic since they hold up well for traveling. I haven't been back to Denmark since my gluten intolerance diagnosis this winter but I'll be curious to see what my Danish friends cook up for me now! Celiac is commonly understood in Denmark, so I think I'll be fine (and well fed as usual!).

At 6:08 PM, Blogger United Studies said...

Here is my version of frikadeller. I lived in Denmark and learned this from my husband's mother:

At 10:42 PM, Blogger Dee said...

This looks wonderful. I have a daughter who loves swedish meatballs, looks like a great twist! Must give this a try! Thanks!

At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hurray for Frikadeller's - they sound fab! I think they'd be lovely with a big dollop of tomato and chilli relish.

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Rachael Narins said...

I disgree my dear, it is YOU who is the real peach. I am nothing in comparison to your warm shining light. :-)

And that said, I am (as always) utterly charmed that your sweet love was able to make this for you! It looks 100 times better than their version!

As always, it was much too short a dinner and I had the best, best, BEST time. (The free gin cocktail didn't hurt either!) You, Sharon and Judy are a whirlwind of fab.

I hope I see you again very, very soon.


At 7:38 AM, Blogger Jeanne said...

That's interesting - the Afrikaans word for meatballs is also "frikadelle"! And yes, sadly, my mom's recipe always included a slice of white bread, soaked in milk and then crumbled into the meat mix :( Glad The Chef could come up with a GF alternative for you though!

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think my family is Danish, but as a kid, both my mom and my grandmom would make "frickadellas" for dinner every so often. I LOVED them. (I always assumed they were German, like my mother's side of the family.) It's making me a little home sick right now, just thinking about them.

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frikadeller! Aww, that reminds me of my childhood. If you want to get truly Danish, you must try it with pickled red cabbage and potatoes. (Another traditional side is rugbrod, and I believe many people would say you're not missing out in the slightest.)

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Ria said...

I want to know how you take these amazingly beautiful food pics!!! The lighting is incredible.

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an honest question- how do you reconcile eating veal- even free-range veal- and meat in general with being Buddhist?

I'm exploring Buddhism and I am wondering how people who love to eat handle this. I am under the impression that I really should try to be a vegetarian if I want to be a true Buddhist.

I would love to hear your take on that!

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny that no one has mentioned the Dutch version or Indonesian frikadellen... In the Netherlands we eat this as a snack, a frikandel is made from left over meats, as the story goes... guess you don't really need to know what is in it. Ha, It is a long thin round shaped sort of hot dog... Poor version of the yummie Indonesian frikadelle..
In Indonesia they make meatballs that are called Frkadelle.

At 12:59 AM, Blogger Pille said...

Just like in Sweden (see Anne's comment), 'frikadellid' are just small meatballs in Estonian and these are called 'kotletid'. I lived in Denmark for a year, and 'frikadeller' was a very typical meal (less rosemary and nutmeg, of course). Easy and filling.
And it's funny how you find the word 'frikadeller' funny. I cannot possibly see how it sounds insulting, as if you pronounce it correctly, it sounds lovely and totally 'normal'.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just made this and it's delicious! Thanks!

At 2:01 AM, Anonymous Teresa said...

Hi everyone, I live on the west coast of South Africa and what is the most interesting to me is I grew up with what we call frikadelle which is a firm favourite in many South African homes, we mainly use beef mince and sometimes add tomato and onion, garlic and fine cloves with a pinch of nutmeg for flavour very tasty meatball, but generally a frikadell to us is a meatball with whatever your preferance is and fried in a pan. I always thought frikadelle was unique to our (what we call South African Boerekos), but it obviously is not. Amazing how different foods that are exactly the same in different parts of the world with different names are sometimes not so different. Thanks for this interesting information. West Coast Greetings to you all


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