Pike Balls with Dill Cream Sauce
December 22, 2022
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A classic pike recipe from Scandinavia, these pike balls with a dill-cream sauce are easy to make and get around all those bones. It’s a fun appetizer, or an easy meal. Other fish work well, too, if you don’t have pike.
Readers of this space know that if there’s anything I love more than dumplings, it’s meatballs of all kinds — whether they’re made from meat, fish or shrimp.
These pike balls are similar to my recipe for German fish meatballs, but the flavors are different; I also have recipes for fish balls and shrimp balls from Mexico, which are also very different.
Anyone who cooks pike knows they have lots of bones. Unlike many other fish, pike have “Y” bones running along the top third of their fillets. This can make them difficult to cook. And while I have detailed instructions on how to clean a pike in my cookbook Hook, Line, and Supper, you don’t necessarily need them here.
The reason is because with this pike recipe, you grind the raw meat through a meat grinder. If you don’t have one, you can use a food processor, which, while not as good, will get you close.
Doing this breaks up all those little “Y” bones so you don’t even notice them. Keep in mind that this only works for smallish pike and pickerel. If your pike is larger than, say 30 inches, you might want to cut the extra bones out.
Of course you can make pike balls with any fish, not just pike. Then they’re just fish balls with a dill cream sauce.
Dill Cream Sauce
About that sauce. Dill cream sauce is a sort of gravy I learned about in Magnus Nilsson’s great book The Nordic Cookbook; this is a great resource if you are into Scandinavian food. It’s basically a roux, stock — ideally fish stock — cream and lots of dill.
Hate dill? Use another fresh herb, like parsley or lovage, fennel or savory or even the leaves from a bunch of celery.
Serving This Pike Recipe
Generally speaking, pike balls would be an appetizer in a larger meal, something akin to a fish version of Swedish meatballs or their larger cousins, Norwegian meatballs.
If you want to go that route, maybe serve them before a salmon soup or nettle soup, and then serve something like duck with beer sauce, or just a simple venison or elk roast.
Or just make your pike balls a meal. The dill cream sauce works well with potatoes or a loaf of crusty bread, so add those and you have a nice meal. I like to have a plate of pickled things on the side to add some tartness to the party.
You can easily make this pike recipe ahead, cook the pike balls, let them cool and freeze, then reheat them in broth or salty water, or even just in the dill cream sauce. The sauce doesn’t keep well, however.
If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.
Pike Balls with Dill Cream Sauce
- 1 pound skinless pike or other white fish, cut into chunks
- 3 tablespoons milk or half-and-half
- 1 egg white
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon minced dill
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg (optional)
- 1 tablespoon potato starch (or corn starch)
DILL CREAM SAUCE
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups stock, fish, seafood, vegetable or chicken
- Maggi seasoning, to taste (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Grind the pike or other fish through a fine die; I use a 4.5 mm. If you don't have a meat grinder, pulse the meat in a food processor until it's getting close to a paste without actually becoming one. You'll have to eyeball it.
- Mix all the other pike ball ingredients with the ground fish in a bowl. You can let this sit for the better part of a day, covered in the fridge, before making and cooking the balls.
- Get a large pot of water simmering gently. You don't want a rolling boil. Add some salt to it, maybe a few tablespoons.
- I prefer 1 tablespoon fish balls, so that's what I use. You do you. Scoop, roll into a ball with wet hands, then gently move them to the simmering water. Repeat with about half the mixture. The balls are ready about 1 minute after they have begun floating. You'll finish them in the gravy so it's OK if they are not totally cooked through — better than boiling them, which can break the pike balls apart.
- When they are done, set aside on a cooling rack.
DILL CREAM SAUCE
- Heat the butter in a medium-to-small pan set over medium-high heat. When it's hot and frothy, stir in the flour. It will clump up. Keep cooking the paste that forms, stirring almost constantly, until it turns the color of peanut butter. This could take 5 to 10 minutes.
- Slowly stir in the stock, stirring constantly. The mixture will seize up, then relax, then get a little thin. Bring this to a full simmer but not a raging boil. Add the Maggi and salt, if needed, then cook the gravy down until it's a touch too thick for your liking. Turn the heat to low, stir in the cream and dill, then roll the pike balls in the gravy. Serve at once.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Good luck finding pike. I have wanted to make quenelles for ever….
Been catching several pike through the ice on the tip-ups and spearing a few as well. Minnesota’s north-central area regulations allow us to keep 10 pike but anything between 22 and 26” must be released and only two allowed over 26”. So… lots of axe handle pike. We’ve been enjoying these little guys pickled but tonight I cooked this meatball recipe. Whole family loved it. Served as a main meal with boiled potatoes and sourdough bread as suggested. Great meal. Instructions and ingredients were spot on. Great posts, love what you are doing. Thank you so much!
They look like 1970, but taste great! I used fishy duck stock for the sauce, and – yum! A perfect Christmas meal.
Growing up, this and similar dishes were the most awesome thing to eat – and now I can cook it! Thank you!
Oh and is sour cream a viable sub for heavy cream?
Tuffy: I bet it is. Haven’t tried.
Hank, thank you! All your recipes are great but this one is right up my alley. Love dill!
What are your thoughts on deep frying them ?
Thank you for the work you do … met you once … it was super cool ! ?
Katie: That’ll work well. And you are most welcome!