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Albondigas Estilo Mama

(Meatballs Like Mama Makes)

(Adapted from Food From My Heart)

(by Zarela Martinez)

This recipe calls to mind the llaves (outdoor water faucets) on the ranch, which were always surrounded with patches of yerba buena—”good herb" or mint. Whenever my mother made albondigas, I would be sent out to pick some fresh for the soup. She always served it with freshly made corn tortillas, salsa casera (homestyle sauce), and refried beans with asadero ("roasting" cheese; the nearest thing outside of Mexico would be mozzarella).

4 garlic cloves

1/4 c. masa harina

1/4 c. warm water

1 lb. lean ground beef, or l/2 lb. each lean ground pork and beef

3/4 t. salt, or to taste

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 c. lard or vegetable oil

1 T. flour

2 qt.chicken stock

1/4 c. chopped scallion, white and part of the green (about 4 medium scallions)

1 large ripe tomato, roasted, peeled, and chopped (or use l/4 c. tomato puree if good tomatoes are not available)

2 Anaheim or California long green chiles (or for hotter flavor, jalapeno chiles) roasted, peeled, and finely chopped)

3 T. finely chopped cilantro leaves

3 T. finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Mince 3 of the garlic cloves.

In a large bowl, combine masa harina and warm water.

Add ground meat, l1/2 t. salt (optional), a generous grinding of black pepper, and 1 minced garlic clove.

Mix with your hands and shape into tiny balls, between the size of a large marble and a small walnut. (Mixture makes 40 - 45 small meatballs.) Set aside.

In small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil over medium-high heat.

Add 1 whole garlic clove. Let cook 20 - 30 seconds to flavor the oil, pressing down with the back of a cooking spoon.

Remove and discard garlic clove.

Off the heat, add the flour to hot fat and quickly stir to combine.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to smooth out lumps, until mixture is golden (about 1 minute).

Meanwhile, have stock heating in a large (at least 6-qt.), deep saucepan or Dutch oven.

Just before it boils, add a little hot stock to the browned flour mixture, and whisk or stir to eliminate lumps.

Pour the mixture into the hot stock and bring to a boil, whisking or stirring with wooden spoon to keep from lumping.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stock, uncovered, 5 minutes. It will thicken slightly.

Season with a little salt and pepper, being careful not to overseason (meatballs will add more salt).

Make a recaudo: In large skillet, heat another 2 T. lard or vegetable oil over medium-high heat until very hot but not quite smoking.

Add chopped scallion, roasted tomato, roasted chiles, and remaining 2 minced garlic cloves.

Reduce heat a little and sauté briskly for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the sautéed mixture to stock.

Add chopped cilantro and mint.

Simmer uncovered another 5 minutes.

Add meatballs.

Let stock return to the boil, and simmer uncovered over low heat 15 minutes.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Serves at least 6 - 8 as main-dish soup, more as first course.

(Read Mexican Geisha, the story that accompanies this recipe.)

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