like IKEA but better


One of the great pleasures of homeownership has been having an excuse to go to IKEA regularly over the years. As our friend Joe used to say, they pump some sort of gas into those places that makes you have hallucinations of wealth (“Two ninety-nine for a set of six toilet brushes! I’ll take ten of them!”) but the experience as a whole is ridiculously fun. Sometimes we’ll sit on the Ektorp sofas or the Poäng chairs for hours, watching the people shove their way through with lists and screaming children and anxious expressions. Now that’s entertainment.

The key component of a day trip to IKEA is, of course, the cafeteria and the Swedish meatballs. There are other foods available there, but at least one person in the shopping party has to get the meatballs. Sometimes we get one of the big meatball platters to share. It comes with boiled potatoes, lots of gravy, and lingonberry sauce, and you can get a glass of sparkling lingonberry juice as well. Eaten at little plastic McDonald’s-style tables, it’s still a tasty and filling meal, and makes you feel like you’ve been somewhere different.

lingonberry sauce

We haven’t been to IKEA for a while, though (maybe we have enough stuff?), and the craving for Swedish meatballs was starting to kick in. Instead of driving down to Renton, we thought we’d make some ourselves! Jon makes meatballs all the time, usually with arrabbiata sauce, but somehow we’d never tried them Swedish-style with gravy and potatoes.

Amazingly enough, this really did remind me of the meatballs at IKEA, but much, much better. It helped that we had some actual Swedish lingonberry sauce, but when that ran out I made some plain cranberry sauce and that was just as good.

And may I just say, the shredded sauteed Brussels sprouts were really tasty – but they were even better with a bunch of cream gravy poured over them. Mmmm, cream gravy. I need to go walk around in the snow for a few hours now, to burn off even the thought of all those calories. But it was totally worth it.


Swedish Meatballs with Cream Gravy

adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Makes a vast number of meatballs. We got three meals for two people out of one recipe.


  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp butter or oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh parsley (optional)


  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock, warmed
  • 1 cup cream

Preheat the oven to 375°. Combine the breadcrumbs and milk and set aside for 5 minutes. Saute the onion in the butter or oil until softened. Combine the moistened breadcrumbs, onion, meats, salt, pepper and egg (plus a handful of chopped parsley, if using). Mix thoroughly and form into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches wide. Lay them out on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°.

To make the gravy, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and whisk it together over medium heat. Keep whisking until the mixture turns slightly golden, then add the stock. Stir until it begins to thicken, then add the cream. Cook for a few more minutes, then serve with the meatballs, some boiled red potatoes and lingonberry preserves.



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