Adaptation of Meatball recipe from Celerina Maldonado´s collection of recipes from the late 19th century
Despite the very large Mexican and Mexican-American population that reside in the U.S. we have a relatively limited understanding of the variety of dishes that make up Mexican cuisine. Meatballs, for example, are a classic Mexican dish that are found in taco stands (tacos de guisado), cantinas, restaurants and homes throughout the country, however, you will not find meatballs as part of standard Mexican-American fare. As someone that has been slightly obsessed with meatballs I was very excited to find that Mexico has many versions of one of my favorite comfort foods.
Meatballs are found in varying forms throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia and the Middle East and it’s no surprise that they are an international standard as they are easy to make, hearty and extremely satisfying. In Spanish the word meatball is albondiga and comes from the Arabic word al-bunduqa meaning nut or ball. Meatballs arrived to Mexico via the Spanish who were introduced to the dish through their proximity to Morocco. Here, in central Mexico, the most common preparation of the dish is albondigas al chipotleand are made with ground beef and/or pork and filled with rice or chopped hard-boiled egg in a tomato/chipotle sauce. They are also frequently made with mint and sometimes with chicharrón or crushed pork rinds and can also be prepared with a sauce made with chiles pasillas instead of the tomato sauce. In the states of Nayarit, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas meatballs are commonly prepared with shrimp and in Zacatecas they make a vegetarian version replacing the meat with garbanzos during Lent.
The recipe that I’m am posting comes from a cookbook that my good friend Diego Ramirez gave me and is a collection of traditional Mexican recipes from the late 19th century. I love the informality with which the recipes are written. They are no lists of ingredients, explaining the exact portions, but rather it’s as if a señora is explaining the recipe to you. I have made this recipe many times, I’ve experimented with the portions, added and removed ingredients and this is the version that has come out the best. ¡Provecho!
- 2 lbs of tomatoes
- 1-2 cups of chicken broth
- ¼ of a medium sized onion
- An inch long piece of Mexican cinnamon
- 2 chipotles en vinegar (see recipe on blog from August 8, 2013) or 1 canned chipotle in adobo
- Olive oil
- ½ lb of ground beef
- ½ lb of ground pork
- ¼ cup of very, very finely chopped onion (if the onion is chunky the balls with fall apart)
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup of finely chopped parsley
- 2/3 cup of bread crumbs
- 1 hard boiled egg
- 1 raw egg
- 3 oz of raisins
- 3 oz of almonds
- 2 cloves
- 5 allspice berries
Roast the tomatoes and onion on a comal or in a broiler until blackened. Blend the tomatoes, onion, cinnamon and chipotles until smooth. Heat oil in a large pot and add the sauce and cook for about 5 minutes. When the sauce has thickened lower the heat and add the chicken broth (you can add more or less depending on how thick you want the sauce to be. Cook for about 20 minutes on low heat, add salt and pepper. Set aside.
Meatballs and Filling:
In a food processor blend the almonds, raisins, allspice berries and cloves until in becomes a paste. Chop the hard boiled egg finely and set aside along with the raisin/almond paste. Roast the garlic on a comal or in a broiler until blacked. Remove the skins and chop finely. Mix together the ground meat, chopped garlic, 1/3 cup of bread crumbs, raw egg, parsley and chopped onion, a tablespoon of oil, tablespoon of salt and pepper with your hands, making sure the ingredients are well mixed together.
Form meatballs that are about ¾ inch in diameter. In your palm, press the balls into round patties and place a ball of the almond/raisin paste as well as a sprinkle of the hardboiled egg in the middle of the patty. Fold the sides of the meat patty around the center forming the meatball. (Make sure that there are no big chunks of onion, parsley or egg sticking out because this will cause the meatballs to break open during cooking.) Roll them in the remaining 1/3 cup of bread crumbs and place on a plate and refrigerate for 45 minutes or until chilled.
Heat oil in a pan. Brown the meatballs for about 5 minutes, moving them around the pan so that they are evenly browned. Place them in the tomato sauce and cook for about 45 minutes. Serve with hot tortillas.