If I was asked to recommend only one off-shore staple on a cold crossing, it would have to be Norwegian Meatballs, or Kjøttkaker. Kept warm in your oven, it’s the easiest way to get a quick bite of nourishment when you come off a chilly, wet watch. Open the oven and pop a couple in your mouth before you curl into your berth for your allotted two hour snooze.
Not far in climate from the Norwegian fjords I adapted this recipe from the Park Point Community Cookbook in Duluth, Minnesota, ground zero of displaced Scandinavians. I have a romantic vision of Helly Hansen eating these in the turn-of-the-century merchant navy, saying things like “Det er kaldere enn en tett i nesen der ute!”* after he comes in from his cold watch.
*I know…all you Norwegians out there…no Norski would ever say such a silly thing about a seal’s nose. Handsome devil though, isn’t he?
(let me mention that this recipe makes over 100 meatballs, so cut in half, as I did here, if you’re not feeding a huge crew)
4 lbs ground beef
3 lbs ground pork (pork sausage also works and adds some nice flavor)
4 eggs (however, I omit the eggs for cruising to give them a longer shelf life)
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 onion, finely diced
2 cups bread crumbs
2 cups Half & Half
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 1/2 cups Half & Half
1 tablespoon beef bouillon
Light your galley oven and preheat to 350 degrees. This is one of those recipes that’s best made when you already have left over mashed potatoes. Otherwise you have the added step of peeling, boiling and mashing 2-3 potatoes. Put all ingredients into the largest bowl you have. Mix together with your (clean) hands. Like meatloaf, that really is the only way to do it.
Add Half & Half and squish together some more until it is all mixed together.
Roll into balls, slightly larger than golf balls in size. Dampen your hands with water if it becomes too “sticky.” Place on baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. While baking, roll up your next batch and place on a separate plate.
Place cooked meatballs into a roaster or casserole while you bake the remaining batches.
To make the gravy (not necessary, but adds some extra yumminess) mix Cream of Mushroom Soup, Half & Half, and beef bouillon together. Heat until just boiling. Pour over meatballs.
The only thing that I can find differentiating Norwegian Meatballs from Swedish Meatballs is the addition of mashed potatoes. Those extra carbs and starch from potatoes make it an even heartier off-shore food. They can be easily frozen and reheated.