Chile Ancho Meatballs, The Arab Influence on Mexican Cuisine

Albóndigas illustrate the dynamism of food pathways, the routes by which foods travel via bird flights, human wars, marriages, etc.  As it travels, food changes, adapts into new cultural types.  This Texas Mexican meatball, albóndiga, originally comes to us from the Spaniards who arrived in the 1500’s.  Albóndiga, an Arab word, settled into Spanish cuisine because, of course, Spain was an Arab territory from 711 until the 1500’s when the Arabs were expelled militarily from the Iberian peninsula

The flavoring for this meatball is Chile Ancho, although Chipotle is most commonly used in albóndigas throughout our region.  I like the taste of the ancho because it reminds me of Chile con Carne.  The rest of the recipe is straight from the Arabic Morroco, Spain method: bread and eggs.  Three native ingredients transform this  Arab dish into Texas Mexican: Mexican oregano, Chile Ancho and tomatoes.

Recipe: (makes 40 1 ½”albóndigas)
For the adobo:
4 chiles anchos, seeded and deveined
1 white onion
3 garlic cloves
2 tsp fresh Mexican oregano
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs Canola oil
2 cups tomatoes, diced
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 Tbs white vinegar
For the meatballs:
1 lb ground pork
1 lb 96% fat free ground beef
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp salt
3 oz large bread strips or pieces, this is about 1 ½ cups
1/2 cup milk
To make the meatballs:
1.  In a saucepan, add water to cover the chiles and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat, let the chiles cook for 15 minutes and then drain.
2. Place the chiles, onion, garlic, Mexican oregano and salt in a blender and purée until completely smooth.  If there are any flecks or small bits in the purée, strain through a fine mesh sieve.  The chile purée should be velvety smooth.
3. Heat the Canola oil in a dutch oven, add the chile purée and fry it for 10 minutes.  It will splatter a bit. The color will deepen and the purée will thicken. Set aside.
4. In a bowl, pour the milk, add the bread and set aside.
5. Mix together the pork and beef.  Squeeze excess milk from the bread and add it to the meat, along with the beaten egg.
6. Add 8 Tbs of the chile ancho purée to the meat, add the salt and mix thoroughly.
7. Form the seasoned meat into 40 1 ½ balls and place them on a large cookie sheet.
8. Roast the meatballs in a 400°F oven for 12-15 minutes until browned and crispy on the outside. Remove from the oven and allow the meatballs to rest for 10 minutes.  They are ready to serve with the adobo.
To make the adobo:
1. To the remaining purée add the tomatoes and the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
2.  cook for 30 minutes until the adobo begins to thicken.  Taste and correct the salt.

The meatballs can be served as in the picture, or the adobo can be served on the side for dipping.   They are moist and delicious the second day and will keep in the fridge for 5 days.

Ay, Dios Mío, these food pathways are full of deliciousness!



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