Sunday, March 01, 2009

El Día de las Albóndigas

El Día de Las Albóndigas was first established here at the Rancho, a tradicíon begun by our landlady, Sra. Chucha B. and me.
(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.
Las abóndigas a la Mexicana are prepared very differently. I may write about Sopa de Albóndigas and Albóndigas al Chipotle at another time.

¡Buen provecho!


Tancho said...

Thanks for the post, now I know what dinner will be one day this week! Keep them coming Michael!

Don Cuevas said...

Hola, Ken; I was thinking, after I wrote that, that meatballs are almost like miniature, round meat loaves, but albóndigas are different, due to the seasonings and that they are poached/simmered rather than fried/baked.

Now, can we say, "Königsberger Klops"?

What are Russian meatballs called? The name eludes me at the moment.

Tancho said...

There are a couple of words that can be used, the first one would Bitochki, and then you could consider Kotleti, those are a little larger, sort of like little loaves and can be made from meat or fish.
The meatballs that are simmered or steeped in liquid tend to become more dry for some reason, I like to either bake mine like you do or first brown them in a skillet then finish off in the oven, either way they are a good comfort food. Recently I started making my meatball about the size of a racket ball. They seem to be more juicy that way. I have seen people that make them as big as tennis balls.....that's being too lazy I think.

Don Cuevas said...

Juicy is good. Do you ever make dim sum, such as jiao-tze or kwo-tieh?

The juicy soup buns? I did them once, but the dough wasn't very successful.

I like them all, but the boiled ones are great. you can eat moreof them.

Buen provecho,

Carolyn said...

I don't remember the exact age my children were introduced to chiles. I have a 13 yr. old, 11yr. old and a 2 1/2 yr. old. The 2 yr. old eats hot salsa, green chili in my green chili enchiladas and red chili from enchiladas or torta de juevo. The chili is pretty hot but she doesn't seem to mind. I don't serve her the torta de juevo with chili but she stole one off of my plate and stuffed it in her mouth. She didn't cry or yell for water either. My son has never liked anything "spicy." Now that he is 13 he is eating more chili and salsa and such! My 11yr. old has also always eaten chili she loves carne adovada.

Don Cuevas said...

"Carne adovada".
Mmm... Carolyn, did you first have that in the Southwest U.S.? The spelling is typical of that area.

I used to make it fairly often but for some reason, not lately. It is SO good!