Königsberger klopse is the kind of dish that seems to turn up a lot on German restaurant menus, especially in areas frequented by tourists (either domestic or foreign). The dish has the advantage of being seen as comfort food, something that you might see in your small German town’s local tavern or restaurant: but when you’re away from home, there’s always a chance that the place you’re visiting might have some new spin to put on it.
Otherwise, Königsberger klopse tend to get presented to the non-German tourist as a regional specialty, with occasionally funny results. One English-language menu recently spotted describes Königsberger klopse as “a delicately simmered meat dumpling…” Fooey. Klopse translates as “meatball”, and this is not a high-end dish. It doesn’t need to be: with the anchovies in the meat mixture and the capers in the sauce to sharpen up the general effect, this is a tasty and satisfying meal to sit down to. Normally boiled potatoes come along with the klopse, and sometimes a slice of pickled beet as well.
Does the dish actually come from the Königsberg area? Difficult to say, at this late date. For one thing, city names and even country names have changed: Königsberg is now Kaliningrad — capital of the Russian “exclave” region of the same name — and the East Prussian cuisine area to which the meatballs are native now spreads from Kaliningrad to northern Poland.
Never mind. They’re still good meatballs.
The recipe for Koenigsberger Klopse / (Konigsberg Meatballs):
For the meatballs:
- 1 hard bread roll or bun (a Kaiser roll or something similar is perfect)
- 3/4 c water
- 1 lb ground beef (as lean as possible)
- 1 strip of bacon, diced
- 4 anchovy fillets, diced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or black if you prefer a stronger flavor)
For the broth:
- 6 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small onion, peeled and halved
- 6 peppercorns
For the gravy:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached flour
- 1 tablespoon capers
- Juice of half a medium-sized lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard (brown is best)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
First, make the meatballs. Soak the roll in the water for about 10 minutes. Squeeze it dry; place in a mixing bowl with the ground beef. Add the bacon, anchovy fillets, onion, egg, salt and pepper, and mix them all together thoroughly.
Next prepare the broth. Boil the water, and add the salt, bay leaf, onion, and peppercorns to season. While this is going on, shape the meat mixture into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Add to the boiling broth and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon, set aside, and keep warm while you make the gravy.
Heat the butter or margarine in a heavy frying pan, and stir in the flour. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly blend in 2 cups of reserved broth.
When the broth is all stirred in, add the drained capers, lemon juice, and mustard. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove a small amount of the sauce to blend with the egg yolk. Stir the egg yolk back into the sauce, making sure it’s thoroughly blended in. Season with salt and pepper.
Put the meatballs into the gravy: reheat it if necessary. Serve on a preheated platter.
A warm vinaigrette-based potato salad goes very well with these.