Albóndigas Soup (Guest Post)
Note from Allison: I stopped introducing each of Paula’s guest posts a long time ago, since she’s written quite a few of them by now. I just wanted to point out that my theory continues to ring true: we make icy granita, and the temperature drops; we plan to share this cozy, comforting, delicious Albóndigas Soup with you, and California finds itself in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave.
(Yesterday it was 99 degrees in Santa Barbara, and today the heat continues… So, yes, this is the last thing we want to eat right now.)
If you live somewhere with rising temperatures and have long since declared Soup Season officially over, just do us a favor and bookmark this recipe for sometime next winter or spring… it’s worth it.
Albóndigas Soup is one of those few Mexican dishes that I’ve rarely come across. Even though I was a fan, I would never see it provided or made anywhere around Los Angeles.
Menudo and pozole are usually the most popular Mexican soups made by family and friends (and most easily found in restaurants). I doubt I’d had albóndigas more than 10 times in my life… until recently.
Albóndigas are basically meatballs that can be made with ground chicken, pork, beef, turkey, or really any ground meat. (I’ve only had ground turkey albóndigas, though.) The meatballs are packed with spices, mint, and uncooked rice; the rice grains inside the meatballs cook and puff up as they simmer.
The albóndigas are simmered in a soup that is usually a clear, reddish, tomato-y broth, which also contains chopped zucchini and potatoes. I think I’ve heard of carrots being added, too, but I’ve never actually seen it.
I don’t really remember when the idea came to me that I should make albóndigas soup, but I know it’s been at the back of my mind for quite a while, possibly even since before I thought about making pozole! But first, I had to figure out a recipe.
I looked online and in books for recipes but was not able to find one that I really liked. Some had some pretty unique or specialized ingredients, and were soups I didn’t recognize as the traditional dish. (Like this one, with poblano and ancho chiles, and panko bread crumbs.) I figured I would try to create my own recipe from scratch, using trial and error.
The first soup wasn’t what I would call a success because I tried blending the onions and tomatoes together, then immediately combined them with the meatballs and chicken broth, without cooking the onions or the tomatoes on their own first. It tasted good, but the broth was too thick and there was something missing from the meatballs.
Then one of my coworkers told me that she puts minced fresh mint into her meatballs! (One of the) problem(s) solved!
Unfortunately, the second soup was not a success either, because I used extra lean turkey from a different store and added too much mint. I liked them, but Allison could tell the turkey was different and she thought the albóndigas were far too minty (I’d used about 3 tablespoons of fresh mint).
The time after that, half of the meatballs fell apart while cooking because I’d forgotten to use an egg.
Finally, my fourth attempt was a resounding success: the broth wasn’t clear, but the tomatoes, onions, and garlic were all perfectly cooked, the turkey was flavorful, I used just a little mint for a nice, subtle hint of it, and the potatoes and zucchini were awesome additions. (I have a weakness for tender potatoes that have started to disintegrate into soup broth, making the soup feel a little richer and creamier than it would otherwise.)
I’m very satisfied with my take on a traditional-ish Albóndigas Soup. Just add the usual Tapatío and fresh lime juice to round out the flavors nicely, and enjoy.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Active time: 40 minutes; Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes.
Ingredients for the meatballs (makes 15-18):
~ 10-12 oz. ground turkey
~ 1 large egg
~ ½ cup white rice (like jasmine rice)
~ ½ tsp. chile powder
~ ½ tsp. cumin
~ ½ tsp. coriander
~ dash of black pepper
~ ½ tsp. salt
~ 1 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely diced
Ingredients for the broth:
~ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
~ ⅓ onion, diced (by hand or in a food processor)
~ 2 cloves garlic
~ 2 large tomatoes
~ ground cayenne pepper, to taste
~ salt, to taste
~ 1 tsp. dried oregano
~ 1 large russet potato, cut into small, thin slices
~ 4 cups chicken broth
~ 2 cups water
~ 2 small zucchini (or 1 large zucchini), sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
~ fresh cilantro, to garnish
~ fresh lime juice, to serve
~ hot sauce, to serve
How to make it:
1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients — the ground turkey, egg, rice, spices, and fresh mint — using either a spoon or your hands. Mix until each ingredient is well incorporated, then set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook slowly (5-10 minutes), over medium-low heat, stirring often, until they are translucent. Meanwhile use a food processor to pulse the garlic a few times, then add the tomatoes and pulse until the garlic and the tomatoes are finely diced and mixed well. Once the onions have cooked, add the cayenne pepper, salt, and dried oregano, and stir around for a few more seconds of cooking, then pour the tomato garlic mixture into the pot. Stir, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the sliced potato to the pot, and give it a stir. Then shape the meatballs: scoop up 2-3 tablespoons of the ground turkey mixture (a golf ball-sized amount), and use your hands to roll it into balls. Gently add the meatballs to the pot. Then pour in the chicken broth and water — be careful to pour the broth in around the edges of the pot: if you pour the stream of liquid directly over the meatballs, they might break apart.
4. Add the sliced zucchini, then cover and simmer for about 35 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. Serve warm, garnished with fresh cilantro, lime, and hot sauce.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Chicken Pozole||Turkey Lentil Soup with Kale||Crema de Aguacate (Mexican Avocado Soup)||Nepali Momos (Steamed Dumplings) & Tomato Chutney|