This is a real granny dish. My grandma cooked it, telling me it reminded her of her own childhood – and I also found similar recipes in my oldest cook book, which dates form 1926. Seems it’s named after the town of Königsberg, which is now in Russia and called Kaliningrad. Quite a bit of history, ain’t it?
Anyway, basically you make meat balls, cook them in a savory broth and serve them in a Béchamel sauce with capers. Tons of capers. So please, do not make this for anyone who hates them.
And the secret ingredient is – if you like to call it like that – anchovies. I know, they’re gross. I mean, really. And this might seem totally unreal coming from me, who absolutely despises every food that comes out of the ocean: you MUST put in anchovies! Otherwise it just won’t taste good. Trust me, you won’t taste any fishiness, instead this small amount of fish acts as a flavor enhancer (unless, of course, you are allergic to fish protein. Then leave it out, for heavens sake!). And why are sardine packagings always so pretty?
OK, let’s travel back in time:
for 4, adapted from “Basic Cooking”
1 day-old bread roll or 3 slices toast, cut into cubes
125 ml / 1/2 cup milk, hot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 anchovy fillets (OR 1 sardine OR 1-2 tablespoons anchovy paste)
2 shallots, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon butter
peel of 1/2 lemon, very finely grated
5 sprigs parsley, chopped
500 g ground veal (OR beef)
salt and pepper
nutmeg, freshly ground
1 liter / 4 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
250 g / 1 generous cup cream
100 g / 3.5 oz capers
Soak the day-old bread cubes in the hot milk, then mix in the egg, mustard and the chopped anchovies. I know, it looks and smells disgusting, but bear with me…
Also, sweat the chopped shallot in a little bit of butter, just until they are getting soft.
Mix the bread mixture into the ground meat and season everything with salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg (thank you, inventors of the Microplane grater!), lemon peel (again, Microplane grater) and chopped parsley.
Do not worry if you can’t see the parsley, I simply forgot to buy some. So, not a crucial ingredient, but parsley is always nice.
If you don’t like tasting raw meat (or just aren’t allowed to), here’s a trick: just take a tablespoon of the meat mixture, roll it into a ball and fry it in butter in your smallest pan or pot. So you can taste the finished meat balls without realizing too late there’s salt missing.
Time to form the meat balls. You want them as uniformly as possible, that’s why I use a #16 disher. You could of course eyeball it or – if you’re really OCD, use a scale.
To roll the meat balls, always moisten your hands after each one, so that they will all be nice and smooth.
Bring the broth to boil and add the bay leaves and some pepper corns – the wider the pot, the better. Then reduce the heat to low, gently put in the meat balls and let them simmer for 10-15 min.
Then fish out the meat balls with a slotted spoon and let them rest on a plate. Also fish out the bay leaves and peppercorns and throw them away. And do keep the cooking liquid, it’s the base for our sauce.
Grab a new pot and start your basic Béchamel: sweat the onion in some butter until they’re soft, then add the flour.
Stir with a whisk and let it all cook until it looks light golden, then add your meat ball cooking liquid (about 2-3 cups of it) and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes – while stirring every minute or so.
You should now have a very delicious sauce, which you will make even more delicious by stirring in a cup of cream. Give it a taste, maybe a little bit more salt or lemon juice?
Gently put the meatballs into the sauce and make sure they are all submerged. Add the drained capers and let it simmer for a couple of minutes until you are sure everything is hot.
Serve with buttered rice and lots of sauce.
In the very unlikely event you should have leftovers: freeze them in a muffin tin (works best with silicon), one meatball per cup and distribute the sauce evenly. Once everything is set hard, plop them out of the muffin tin and put 2 each in labeled bags. Homemade convenience food!