I spent my first college semester in Guadalajara, where I learned the rudiments of the local cuisine from my host family. The lady of the house, Senora Macfas, often served her houseful of hungry American students this hearty soup/stew. It is loaded with Mexican meatballs (albondigas), which are made with rice to stretch a pound of beef. My current version gets a little more zing from smoky chipotles.
- 1 pound ground round (85 percent lean)
- 1 medium yellow onion, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
- 3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup long-grain rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 5 cups canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes in juice, chopped, juices reserved
- 2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 chipotle chile, minced
- 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mexican crema or sour cream, for serving
1. To make the meatballs, mix the ground round, onion, garlic, cornmeal, egg, adobo sauce, oregano, and salt in a large bowl until barely combined. Add the rice and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.
2. To make the soup, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes with their juices, zucchini, and chipotle and bring to a boil over high heat. Return the heat to medium to keep at a steady simmer.
3. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the meat mixture into 24 equal meatballs. Transfer to a platter. One at a time, drop the meatballs into the Dutch oven?they will firm up when they hit the simmering broth. Cover with the lid ajar and simmer until the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, add the corn. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot, topping each serving with a dollop of crema.
Chipotle chile peppers, which are smoked jalapenos, are most commonly available in small cans, packed with a thick spicy chile sauce called adobo. (Chipotle is also available as a pure ground powder and whole dried peppers, neither of which includes adobo sauce.) The chiles are extremely spicy, so if you have sensitive skin, wear plastic gloves?at least, use an extra measure of caution when handling them. There are six or seven chiles in each can, so leftovers are likely. After opening the can, transfer the remaining chiles and adobo to a small covered container (use an inexpensive disposable one, such as a plastic 1-cup delicatessen take-out container or a recycled jar, as the red adobo will stain and transfer its flavor). Refrigerated, the chiles will keep for a month or two. Freeze for longer storage: Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Place the chiles about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Spoon equal amounts of the adobo in the can over each chile. Freeze until the chiles and sauce are solid and can be lifted from the paper. Transfer to a zip-top plastic storage bag and freeze for up to 6 months. They can now be used as needed, one at a time, with the adobo clinging to the chile. Makes 6 to 8 Servings
Print this recipe