By Our Chef, Phillip Schaaf
“What on earth are albondigas?”
They are much simpler than the name may imply. Albondigas are simply meatballs. Originating in South American and Spanish cuisine, albondigas have quite a bit in common with their culinary cousins. Meatballs from all cultures are made up of the same basic elements - ground or minced meat and a blend of spices.
For this recipe
You need to have a binder of some sort. This is usually in the form of a flour; wheat flour, oat flour, almond flour, etc. The flour is often paired with egg to give it more structure. The general rule is one egg per pound of meat, with a about ¼ C of flour or bread crumbs.
The flavoring of the meatball
It really depends on the cook or the style and/or region that the meal is being prepared from. Almost all meatballs have some onion and garlic, maybe peppers or chilies as well. It is best to sweat these vegetables and cool them before adding them to the mixture. Sweating is when the vegetables are cooked at medium heat, so as to soften them without adding any color.
Albondigas are traditionally served in a broth like a soup, or in a rich tomato broth over rice.
The recipe we are preparing will be served with a chipotle tomato broth over cooked rice. It is a pretty quick meal to prepare, and easy to make extra and freeze for a later date.
- Medium-sized skillet
- Cast iron skillet
- Large mixing bowl
In a medium-sized skillet, heat a tablespoon of fat on medium heat and sweat the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Sweat until the mixture is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes, and then remove the mixture from the pan and spread flat on a plate, and place in the refrigerator to cool.
While the vegetable mixture is cooling, gather all of the other ingredients and a large mixing bowl. Place all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl, along with the cooled vegetable mixture. Mix by hand until the mixture is homogenous and seems to hold together well. Using a 2 oz scoop, or just eyeballing it like a champ, make meatballs by gently rolling the meat in the cupped palm of your hand. Once you’ve made albondigas out of the entire mixture, refrigerate them for about 15-20 minutes to help them set up a bit.
Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat and add enough fat to coat the surface of the skillet. Working in batches as to not overcrowd the pan, sear each meatball on every side, until they are evenly browned. This will take about 8 minutes per batch. Once all of the albondigas are browned, it will be time to make our sauce.
In the skillet you just seared the albondigas in, add the onion and cook until it just starts to brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add the crushed tomato and chipotle pepper and stir together all of the ingredients. Simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the chicken stock and the albondigas back to the pan.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce is at the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and then add the lime juice and cilantro and serve over the cooked rice.