Albondigas is my favorite Spanish word to say: al-BOHN-dee-gahs! Say it with meaning! It means meatballs. Less fun to say in English, definitely.
When I was last in Mexico, I had the pleasure of enjoying albondigas con salsa roja, or meatballs with red sauce. The red sauce was a mysterious mix of chiles and tomato, and the meatballs were small, juicy little morsels. It was lovely, and I knew I’d want to recreate it myself when I got back home. Well, the weather has turned rainy and cold, by LA standards, so a warm bowl of soup with Mexican meatballs sounds like just the thing. The soup is simple: it’s an un-pureed version of my tortilla soup with some chipotle added for extra smokiness and depth. The meatballs are bright and just barely spicy with poblano peppers, fresh herbs, and tortilla crumbs rounding them out. You can serve the meatballs solo or puree the soup for a different texture, if you like. Buen provecho!
1 large fresh poblano chile
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
3/4 pound ground pork shoulder
1/4 cup finely grated onion
1/4 cup tortilla crumbs
1 large egg, beaten to blend
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, stems and leaves
2 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 corn tortillas, chopped
2 cups onions, finely diced
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce
1 quart vegetable stock
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
tortilla pieces, fried crisp
For the meatballs, line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Char chiles over direct flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag and steam 10 minutes. Stem, seed, and peel chiles, then chop finely (should yield about 3/4 cup).
Place chiles in large bowl. Gently mix in beef and all remaining ingredients. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet.
For the soup, heat oil in skillet over medium-high until hot. Add the meatballs and cook until browned all over and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan and hold for later. tortillas and fry until crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add onions, cumin, chili powder, and garlic. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add stock and tomatoes and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to desired taste. Add 1/4 cup cilantro, and add more lime juice by teaspoonfuls, if desired.
For the toppings, heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat 1 minute. Add half of tortilla strips. Cook until crisp, gently separating strips with tongs, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer strips to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining tortilla strips, adding more oil if needed.
To serve, place the meatballs in a bowl, top with soup, and sprinkle with desired garnishes. Enjoy!