Now we talking: albóndigas soup…

I’ve had this one in a couple of Mexican restaurants when I lived in Southern California. It was a simple meatball soup, albóndigas soup. Usually the broth was thin and there were swirls of cabbage, carrot, and onion floating about with a grain of rice here and there alongside three small meatballs. I found it comforting despite how plain it was and how cheaply it was made. I didn’t know it was cheaply made, I just thought they were all this way. I had albóndigas soup marked forever and I finally made it last night.

soup base: carrots, zucchini, onion, cumin, oregano, rice, salt, garlic, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, tomatoes
everything is chopped, shredded, ground, or minced
adding broth, tomatoes, carrots, chiles to the sautéed onions, garlic, and spices

This version is far heartier than those token bowls of albóndigas soup I got at restaurants. Loaded with vegetables and a good amount of spice, I couldn’t wait for it to finish cooking. The meatballs are made with beef and porkbut you could use chicken or lamb instead of beef, and some meatballs are wrapped around a pitted green olive. Instead of a crumbled corn tortilla, you could use rice, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs for the binding agent.

cilantro, garlic, corn tortilla, beef, pork, zucchini, spices, egg
place it all in a bowl
mix it together

I don’t know why, but I always have this temptation to make meatballs enormous….Anyway, I was *really good* about keeping these small, about 3/4-inch in diameter. I wound up with about 28. The recipe calls for cooking them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes to reduce the grease. Word. Timing-wise, it all works out great. Mise en place the soup and while that is simmering for about 20 minutes, prep and make the meatballs. By the time the meatballs have been cooked and drained, it should be time to plop them into the soup along with the zucchini and rice. Let that simmer for 30 minutes and you’re golden!

forming meatballs
cooked and drained
last step – add the meatballs, zucchini, and rice

Okay, that’s not the last step. The last step is scarfing down a bowl of this fine soup. The chipotle chile and adobo sauce give it a rich smokey-earthy flavor with just a hint of chemical heat. 

that’s not a margarita, but if it makes you happier, go ahead and pretend it is….

Albóndigas Soup

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/4 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or ground cumin)
6 cups beef stock
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 canned chipotle chile plus 1-2 tsps adobo sauce
2 carrots, grated
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/4 cup uncooked rice

1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 lb bulk chorizo or ground pork
1/4 cup grated zucchini
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stale small corn tortilla, processed to crumbs
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or ground cumin)
1/4 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican

Heat the vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin until onions are soft. Add the beef stock, tomatoes, chipotle, carrots, and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer (medium-low heat) for 20 minutes.

Make the albóndigas: Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pinch off about a tablespoon of filling and roll it into a ball about 3/4-inch in diameter. Bring 2-3 inches of water to a boil in a medium to large saucepan. Add the meatballs and boil for 3-4 minutes (this is for reducing some of the grease). Drain the meatballs and discard the water. Add the meatballs, zucchini, and rice to the soup and simmer for another 30 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and mint. Serves 6.

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