Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to School Traditions

I love routine and tradition, things I can count on. We have plenty of traditions around here. In fact, Tina often says, "Now this is not going to become a tradition so don't get your mind wrapped around the next time." I can create a routine or tradition after having just one of something.  We should have a bonfire every time . . . We should go to such-and- such a place every . . . We should have crab cakes every . . . I declare just about everything a tradition.

But back to school traditions, they are real and they are steeped in 10 years of history with this academic I love so much. I celebrate the return to the classroom for many reason but mostly because I am so darn proud of Tina and the work she does. It isn't that I look forward to the end of our blissful summers together because I don't.  I know she doesn't look forward to it with quite the same enthusiasm as I do so I like to make it special.

So on that day when Tina and her colleagues return to the class room, committed to bringing excellence to the discipline of mathematics,  I send dozens of homemade scones down to the faculty and staff at St. Olaf. Just a little something to get their day started. I take a break from my rigorous canning routine and I bake for an entire day. Always on the list are cinnamon scones which are a favorite, blueberry scones which are labor intensive and a pain to make but they are Tina's favorite. I decided to make a white chocolate chunk with dried apricot and toasted walnuts this year as well. The emails start coming as soon as Tina puts the goodies in the work room and they continue all day long so I know they are appreciated. 

Our second tradition around returning to school is a special meal sometime during the first week. Of course I would prefer that it always be the opening day of classes, or some other consistent day, after all it is a tradition. But week one is chaotic and unpredictable and I can't count on the consistency. So, some time during week one I make one of our favorite meals, Scandinavian Meatballs, a smorgasbord classic!

We are not Scandinavian. I don't eat pickled herring, nor do I wear colorful Norwegian sweaters. I am not sure how we even got this meal on the table to begin with but I guess it is fitting since St. Olaf was founded by Norwegian immigrants. St. Olaf celebrates its Norwegian history in style especially at Christmas time when the famed music department puts on its annual concert. We have never gone but I understand it is a sea of those Scandinavian winter sweaters with the traditional Selburose in colors most of us never knew existed. I do however beg each of Tina's colleagues for the two highly coveted tickets they each get to the concert. It is a tradition to give two tickets to my sister every year for her birthday. We usually score about 6 tickets and give all of them away. People apparently give very big amounts of cash for a ticket to the concert. This year we are going to go, and I can assure you, it won't become a tradition.

Here is the recipe for the Swedish Meatballs as we call them around here.

1 cup minced onion
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 1/2 pounds of meat loaf mixture (ground beef, pork and veal)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used boxed Orgran all purpose gluten-free crumbs)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dill weed, divided
1/4 teaspoon each ground pepper, ground nutmeg, ground allspice and ground cardamom
1/3 cup rice flour
21 ounces beef broth (gluten-free)
1 cup heavy cream

Spray a 10 X 15 inch jelly roll pan with no stick cooking spray. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a skillet, cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter until soft. In a large bowl combine onion, meat loaf mixture, crumbs, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon dill and other spices,  half and half and salt. It will be very soft. Shape into golf size balls, or any size you like, if you do golf size you will get about 26. Arrange on coated jelly roll pan. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned, 14-18 minutes.

Meanwhile melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet or pot. Stir in flour to make a roux, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Gradually add hot beef broth. I add about 1/3 cup at a time, fully incorporating before adding more and working slowly to create a smooth, thick sauce. Rice flour will behave slightly differently than wheat flour in a roux but it will work! Add dill and stir in heavy cream slowly, simmer 5 minutes.

Scrape meatballs and browned bits into the gravy; stir to combine. Spoon into a 3-quart casserole. Refrigerate, covered several hours or overnight.  To serve, heat oven to 350 degrees and bake until heated through about 45 minutes. If you don't make a head of time, reduce cooking time to 30 minutes.

Serve over gluten-free noodles or rice.

No comments: