Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)

I did not grow up with this soup. Which is surprising because my grandmother cooked everything. She was part of this dinner club called the Pineapple Club. It was here that she built her repertoire of ethnically diverse recipes. Lucky for us, we were raised with dishes most kids didn't eat.

This wasn't one of them. When I moved (back) to California to live with my father I was exposed to Mexican food I has never had before. A classmate's grandmother had this waiting for us one day after school. The name scared me. Albondigas! I love to say it. It makes me feel fluent in Spanish past the two years I took in high school. Albondigas. So comforting, warm, mmm Albondigas!!

So it's pretty easy to make. If you push it, you can get done in about 45 minutes. If you buy pre-made meatballs you could shave even more time off it. But really, make your own. Make a ton. Flash freeze half and use them next week for another meal.

Every family has their own version. There is no right or wrong way. I'm making it according to what I have on hand.

Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)
1 lb ground beef (80/20)
1/2 pound HOT pork sausage
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup cream (or milk)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup minced onion
1 lg clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp dried oregano, crushed between your palms
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin (we like a lot)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 quarts beef or chicken broth (or a combination- I'm using I carton chicken and 1 can beef consume' mixed with 3 cans of water)
1 can crushed tomatoes (all I had was the LG can so I used about 1 cup)
1 small can chopped mild green chiles, with liquid
1 cup diced sweet onion
1 cup chopped carrots
2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 - 1 tsp Tapatio (that is hot sauce! If you cant find it Any hot sauce will do)
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ground beef, pork sausage, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, cream, egg, onion, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and pepper. Do not over mix. That creates tough meatballs.

Form into small meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. I use a really small ice cream scoop that was purchased for making cookies. This ensures that they will all be the same size. Set aside. Cook in the same pot you intend on making the soup in. Make sure to brown on all sides. I am cooking on medium high heat. They cook pretty fast. Now some families do not cook the meatballs first. I like to brown them for two reasons. One, I happen to be a stingy meat purchaser, only purchasing the most fattiest hamburger. By cooking them first, I can pour off all the drippings so the soup isnt over fatty. The second reason is that I like the flavor of the cooked meatballs. I find it creates a more flavorful broth.
Cook in batches and set all the cooked meatballs aside. Careful to not munch on them too much!
Clear the pan of the fat left by the meatballs but dont disturb the crunchy bits on the pan. Toss all the veggies in and let cook for a minute or two.
Add the rice and let it cook for a minute or two too
Place beef or chicken stock, tomatoes, green chiles, onion, oregano, cumin, and hot pepper sauce in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add rice, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Carefully add meatballs to the broth and simmer an additional 10 to 15 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Add corn and cook until heated through. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in chopped cilantro leaves just before serving.
I like to start each bowl with crushed tortilla chips.

I could have skimmed the top for grease a little better but that corn bread will end up in the bowl so I guess it will all just not matter too much.


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