Long before I became pregnant, I was curious about other womens food cravings. Popular culture says that well all slaver over pickles and ice cream. But I dont actually know any women who were desperate for either when they were pregnant.
Not me, certainly. Ive always loved pickles anyway, but Im much more excited by other pickled vegetables than cucumbers. Pickled sunchokes, red onions, asparagus spears? Yes. But mostly during this pregnancy, I cant 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 dont really need any more. Not yet, anyway.
Still, the cravings are real, even if they dont 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-laws 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 wasnt 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. Its 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. Thats 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 didnt 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. Doesnt it sound like a terrible insult? Sharon and I have decided to adopt it: Geez, hes 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 its 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 couldnt. 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, thats 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?
Ill never be able to go to IKEA and indulge in Swedish meatballs. And maybe its better that Lucques couldnt 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 youre 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 and pork frikadeller
Thanks to the Chef’s generosity, you don’t need to have one around the house to eat these too.
Im 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 doesnt 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. Thats what well 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 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. (Dont 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.