Originally my plan in recapturing my Mexican Kitchen was to go in stages
Take the plunge with a complex recipe (pozole) just to see if I was up to the challenge and if Mexican Recipes by the masters do work. Thankfully, the answer was YES to both
. Then Id start simple and learn some basics on Salsas from Salsas that Cook by Rick Bayless, then move up to prepare more grander meals by using Mexico one Plate at a Time also by Bayless and then go for the gold with the Essential Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy to make use of my skills as she breaks down recipes to their BEAREST essentials. Which in a complex cuisine like Mexican, there are SO many components. But then, I hit a snag
actually more like a craving
I NEEDED (yes, it was one of those cravings
Little Mexican meatballs of meat, rice and hard-boiled egg
Dense, but amazingly flavorful and with a wonderful texture. Even the name is fun to say: Al-Bone-Dee-Gahs! Further, Albondigas is as I mentioned, just another Mexican component that used to create a grander dish. They can be served on their own smothered in sauce to use in Tacos, Enchiladas, or an appetizer. And most know them from soups.
Neither Bayless book had a recipe for these great meatballs, so I searched the found this one by Diana Kennedy. Albondigas en Chiptole Quemado (Mexican Meatballs in Smokey Chipotles) (Scroll down the post)
Like all her recipes, it was long and detailed. Further, I saw it needed a Molcajete (Mexican Stone Mortar and Pistol) I almost passed up the recipe because Ive been in the market for a Molcajete for a while and all Ive been able to find were awful ones. The bowl all rough, full of pits, soft stone that I know would constantly crumble. But a new outpost of Gigante (Mexicos Kroger) just opened up near my work and I actually found a decent one! It wasnt pretty but the bowl was pretty smooth and the pistol very strong. When I did searches on how to season however, I did come across a great looking one at Crate and Barrel!! It looks just like my mothers, solid stone with a really nice pistol It is twice the price of what I paid for mine, but had I known about it before, I would have so bought it there!
Seasoning my new Molcajete was pretty easy although a little time consuming.... Cleaned it really well with water, let it dry and I crushed raw rice in it first to clean out any gravely bits (Thankfully there were none!) Then, cleaned it again, dry and added Peppercorns, Cumin Seed, Salt, a few cloves of garlic and began to mash it all together. The scent of the mixture sent me STRAIGHT back to the Mercados of Yucatan with their scent of freshly ground recados just hanging heavy in the air. I made sure the mixture got into every nook and cranny of the bowl and let it set for about an hour before rising it off one final time
Then, I went to work on the recipe
As I mentioned, scratch cooking Mexican can be complex because it has SO many components. But that is also its strength. You can make each component over a couple of days. I split this recipe into two days, although in the end it proved to be rather simple enough to do one afternoon! :)
First was the Salsa Rick Salsas book introduced me to the toasting, frying and grinding of dry chile to add to salsas! At first, I though it was WEIRD. I always rehydrate dry Chiles to add to my salsas but I started to think about it, and it made sense, its like adding Chile Powder to flavor my tomato sauce and the dried chiles also adds some body! :) The salsa called for frying dried Chipotles, Broiling Tomatoes and then pureeing them together. Then, you cook down the salsa after adding an herb paste (Made in the Molcajete). The final result was thick and grainy. It reminded me of a Mole paste (Which made me excited to try my first Mole in the near future!). I also hardboiled boiled an egg and half cooked some rice in the microwave.
Having the salsa, egg and rice ready made meatball making day a snap. I blended together a raw egg with lots of spices and soaked a piece of bread in it. I then just added the meat ½ ground pork and ½ ground beef, rice and chopped up eggs and just made many mini meatballs.
I put my thick salsa along with Chicken Broth in a sauté pan and once it started to simmer up, I dropped in my meatballs and cooked uncovered so the salsa could reduce futher. And that was it! :) To accompany my dinner I made homemade mashed potatoes and buttered baby carrots sprinkled with parsley and ground ginger.
I served myself up some and MAN!! Those meatballs were Spicy!! My own chile head popped one into his mouth without warning and winched The salsa had thickened up nicely and it all worked well with the Mashed Potatoes (which in turn helped turn down the heat a little bit) and the buttery sweet carrots for a contrast of flavor.
So Im happy to have had another total success (especially after two okay shrimp dishes) and to finally have my own Molcajete, which Im sure will serve me well as I continue these adventures!! :)