(Photo from another source.)
I was planning to pay our rent, then go next door to our gringo neighbor's house, in whose refrigerator freezer I store surplus foods, to pick up a container of "Italian" meatballs in home made tomato sauce.
But while paying the rent at Casa Chucha, I smelled the rich and mouthwatering aroma of the comida she was preparing. When I asked what was cooking, she said, "Albóndigas". I suggested a swap so that we could sample each other's meatballs. She agreed, and anticipated the arrival of a sample in the next hour or so.
She explained that hers were made with rice, marjoram, hierba buena (mint), other herbs I forget, and tomato. No chiles, as the visiting grandson is only 3 or 4 years old and not yet accustomed to comida picante.* She plans to serve the albóndigas in their broth, I think, with nopalitos. (Prickly pear cactus pads cut into strips. De-spined, of course.)
These nopalitos are served as a salad.
I started the water boiling for the pasta, so I could offer her some with the meatballs. I had only 8 meatballs here, with more in the freezer, but we didn't need very many.
*I wonder at what age Mexican children are introduced to chiles in order that they become accustomed to them.
She came over with the albóndigas, simmered in a tasty soup with lots of carrots (cut lengthwise as is the custom here), a little potato and some chayote. The meatballs themselves were delicate of texture, with a surprising kick of ¿black pepper? when I bit into the first one. Overall, very light and tasty.
My defrosted "Italian" style meatballs, in red tomato sauce were richer, spicier and heavier. I could only eat one of mine after two of hers. And these meatballs were more lightly seasoned than I usually make.
The nopalitos were coarsely chopped, cooked with tomato and onion and a little touch of chile perón (also called chile manzano). They were refreshing, as nopales tend to be. The leftovers will go into this mornings huevos revueltos con queso.
Lo siento, pero no les puedo ofrecer algunas recetas para mis albóndigas ni de la Señora. It's because I use recipes as a guideline from which to spring into creative variations.
I will offer the following guidlines:
- I use a ratio of 2:1 ground beef and ground pork, with extra fat added for juiciness.
- A kilo and a half of ground meat yields about two dozen medium sized meatballs.
- A cup or two of fresh bread crumbs are soaked in just enough V-8 Juice to cover.
- Two eggs to a kilo y medio of meat.
- The seasonings are finely minced onion, a little garlic, basil, marjoram or oregano, fresh parsley if available, and salt and pepper. A couple of tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan type cheese is a tasty addition.
- The last recipe I used, from Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan, instructed to roll the formed meatballs in fine, dry breadcrumbs before frying. I consider this unneccessary after doing it once.
- I almost never fry the meatballs, but bake them on a PAM sprayed, rimmed baker's half sheet or similar receptacle. At a temperature of 375ºF, they take about 25 minutes to brown. It's unnecessary to turn the meatballs during the baking, but it can't hurt to turn the pan once.
- I usually have a quick, medium or light tomato sauce prepared, in which I simmer the meatballs for about 20 minutes after they brown in the oven.