I finally tried out a Diana Kennedy recipe over the weekend—a friend had lent me her book The Essentials Cuisines of Mexico a few months ago. She is considered an authority on Mexican cooking and is a favorite among the food editors here. Meatballs are a favorite dish at my house and I picked out a very simple recipe for them: Albóndigas en Salsa de Jitomate y Chipotle (meatballs in tomato and chipotle sauce). The recipe hails from the Jalisco region of Mexico. The meatballs were great and the addition of chipotle chiles to the tomato sauce gave it a smoky, spicy flavor. The recipe made a lot and now I have plenty of leftovers for the week. We ate them solo the first night with Naan bread to sop up the great sauce. Recipe after the jump.
While I set out to be true to the recipe, I ended up making a lot of tweaks along the way.
For the meatballs:
12 ounces each ground pork and beef
6 ounces zucchini, trimmed and finely chopped
2 large eggs
1/4 scant teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (I subbed Italian dried)
1/4 scant teaspoon cumin seeds
1/3 onion, finely chopped
salt to taste
For the sauce:
2 pounds tomatoes
3 to 4 chipotle chiles in adobo, or to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup light meat or chicken broth
salt to taste
She recommends having the meat put through the finest screen of the grinder but I just used the prepackaged ground beef from the store. Also, the ground meat weighed in at a little over a pound each so I upped the quantities of ingredients, using an entire small zucchini, a bit more oregano and cumin seeds, half an onion, and a third egg. You mix all the ingredients together and then form into meatballs. The third egg made the mixture too wet, so to fix that problem I added panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). I seasoned the entire mixture generously with salt and pepper.
For the sauce, you cover the tomatoes with boiling water and let them sit for 5 minutes. Then you drain them and blend with the chiles. Since tomatoes aren’t in season, I subbed two cans of whole peeled tomatoes and their juices and blended them with the chiles, adding probably 6 chiles total as I like the extra heat.
You heat the oil in a wide pan, add the sauce, and when it comes to a boil, cook on high 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the meatballs and bring to simmer. Cover and cook over low until the meatballs are cooked through, 50 minutes.
I had decided to brown the meatballs before cooking them in the sauce. I tried browning them in a Dutch over but they weren’t staying together and had much better luck broiling the remaining ones on a sheet pan coated with cooking spray. I used the Dutch oven to cook the sauce, adding just a cup at first to scrape up the browned bits in pan. I then simmered the meatballs in all the sauce for 50 minutes (same as recommended for the raw ones).