This is the second time I am making this Mexican flavored soup. The first time I made it, I was blown away at how incredibly delicious it was and how robust the Mexican notes of the dish played out. The flavors of the cilantro, cumin and medium-hot salsa melded beautifully together; and the rice and tender meatballs gave the soup a thick, creamy texture that was wonderfully satisfying. I vowed I would definitely make this soup again. This time I used brown long grain rice instead of the white variety as directed in the recipe, and prepared the rice separately instead of cooking it in the soup. I also used ground beef that the recipe called for, instead of ground turkey.
Though the second time around the results were equally delicious, there were notable differences in the two versions. Cooking the rice separately and then adding it to the finished soup made a more 'brothy' dish, as opposed to the creamier, thicker version when it was cooked in the soup. Using ground beef also made firmer, meatier tasting meatballs, while the ground turkey ones were considerably more tender and mellow in taste. Fortunately, both of those changes, for the most part, impacted the overall texture of the soup, and not the taste. Either way, the soup hits the spot on a cold evening and is a great weekend soup.
The recipe comes from the December, 2000 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. The recipe is written as directed in the magazine. I added the jalapeno pepper to add a bit more heat to the soup. Don't skimp on the cumin or cilantro, especially if using the ground beef for the meatballs. And, if you like your dishes spicy hot, use hot salsa instead of the medium-hot version. Next time, I plan to replace the regular tomatoes with the Mexican version, which contain chili peppers and a bit of heat, and eliminate the jalapeno pepper and salsa from the recipe.
Albondigas - Mexican Meatball Soup
1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1/4 pound pork sausage
1 c. finely chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
6 T. yellow cornmeal
1/4 c. whole milk (don't need is using turkey)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 T. olive oil
1 3/4 c. chopped onions, medium dice
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 small bay leaves
5 14 1/2 oz. cans beef broth
28 oz. diced tomatoes with juices
1/2 c. chunky medium-hot salsa
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/2 c. long-grain white rice
Heat oil in a large, heavy pot. Add 1 3/4 c. chopped onions, chopped jalapeno pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, and bay leaves; and saute for 5 minutes.
Add the beef broth, tomatoes with juices, salsa and 1/4 c. cilantro. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add uncooked rice and raw meatballs into soup and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice and meatballs are cooked, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (extra cumin and cilantro too, if needed). Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and chopped green onions.
Makes 6 - 8 generous servings.