Albondigas

I grew up in Fresno, California, where there is a plethora of incredible, wonderfully authentic Mexican restaurants. Most of these restaurants share an amazingly delicious menu item- Albondigas Soup. Its hearty, brothy, spicy, meatbally goodness is what I grew up ordering every time I went out for Mexican food (which was often). It started every meal, no matter what came next- tacos, enchiladas, tamales. Sometimes a big bowl was the meal itself. And then I moved away from Fresno and something dreadful happened. The soup I loved so much suddenly disappeared from Mexican restaurant menus! I couldn’t find it anywhere! I’ll never forget living in Portland, pregnant with Jovie, and craving Albondigas so intensely that I couldn’t think of anything else. I called every Mexican restaurant within a 10 mile radius and no one had it! And then I realized, “Hey, I know my way around a kitchen! I can make it myself!” so I waddled my very pregnant self to the grocery store, bought the ingredients, and got to work. It was my first time making Albondigas, born from a pregnancy craving mixed with a bit of homesickness, and it was a wild success. Now I live near my hometown of Fresno again, and I can order my beloved Albondigas most anywhere. But you know what? I like my version the best.

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

1 lb ground beef

1 small yellow (or 1/2 medium) onion, diced small

1/2 c. white rice, uncooked

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1 egg

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Soup:

4 T. bacon fat (or vegetable oil)

6 c. beef stock

1 yellow onion, chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, minced

4-5 carrots, sliced into coins

2-3 russet potatoes, diced small to medium

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (with juice) *Note: I like to use the kind that has herbs mixed in- usually a combo of oregano, basil and garlic. This isn’t necessary, but it does add a bit of extra flavor

1 beef bouillon cube

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Assemble meatballs by combining all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing to combine, but being careful not to overmix. Shape into 1″ balls.  set aside

This recipe makes 24 meatballs, while the soup only calls for 12. I like to freeze the extra dozen so that I can make another batch of soup in a pinch.

Sauté onion in bacon fat over medium/high heat. Once the onion is translucent, add the garlic and jalapeño. Continue to cook until tender.

Add carrots, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook until carrots are just slightly caramelized

Add beef stock, bullion cube, and tomatoes to the pot, bring to a rolling simmer

Add potatoes and meatballs to soup

Cover, and simmer on low until vegetables are cooked through and meatballs are done, about 25 minutes

Freeze additional meatballs, being careful to label properly.

*Note: Because of the raw rice in these meatballs, poaching (cooking in hot liquid) is the only way to prepare them. One time, I simply wrote “meatballs” on the bag, and my husband sautéed them, not knowing about the rice inside. The rice didn’t cook. They were gross.

Serve topped with fresh cilantro and tortilla chips. Enjoy!

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