So, I’ve had a lot to say about Thanksgiving dinner: the pies, the cranberries, the whole darn line-up. But would you believe that there was another meal last weekend that had me even more excited? On Friday night, my sister, Kevin and I had a family dinner—just like all those we shared in Chicago during the year my sister lived here, before moving back to Minnesota a couple months ago.
This one was in Minnesota (at my sister’s beautiful new apartment) and we had some extra generations of the family around the table, but it was a family dinner nonetheless. My sister thought soup would be a good bet—something light to ease the inevitable day-after-Thanksgiving guilt.
After much recipe link swapping, we selected this recipe for Albóndigas, which is a Mexican rice and meatball soup. (Questionable whether soup remains light when it’s packed with meatballs, but we went with it.) My theory is that Ali just wanted guacamole and salsa and the soup was an excuse to make both. Regardless of her motives, it was a delicious pick.
This soup is rich and hearty, but at the same time zippy and bright. The broth is infused with cilantro, citrus and tomato juices. In it bob bits of well-cooked long-grain rice and pork-and-beef meatballs, which are flavored with ground cumin and bound together with cornmeal, egg and a splash of milk.
The Epicurious commenters assure us that we can swap out the beef broth for chicken broth and substitute ground turkey or chicken and turkey sausage for beef and pork sausage in the meatballs. But day-after-guilt or not, it was still a holiday weekend and I decided to make the recipe as written. This soup has been firmly added to the rotation, though, so I’ll have ample opportunities to tinker.
Mexican Meatball Soup with Rice and Cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 3/4 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 small bay leaves
5 14 1/2-ounce cans beef broth*
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa (medium-hot)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 pound bulk pork sausage
6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 3/4 cups onions, 2 garlic cloves and bay leaves; sauté 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes with juices, salsa and 1/4 cup cilantro; bring to boil. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine ground beef, pork sausage, cornmeal, whole milk, egg, salt, pepper, cumin, then remaining 1 cup onions, 2 garlic cloves and 1/4 cup cilantro in medium bowl. Mix well. Shape meat mixture by generous tablespoonfuls into 1- to 1 1/4-inch balls. Add rice and meatballs to soup and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice and meatballs are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve.
* We used two quarts of beef broth and one broth of chicken broth.