Albondigas is a Mexican soup: a spicy, tomatoey broth that simmers around soft meatballs made with beef, pork, and rice. This sounded so perfect, so warm, so comforting to me when I found myself craving soup while sick with a cold recently.
Straying from tradition, I made my meatballs with ground chicken since that’s what I had on hand. I grated some onion and garlic and mixed it into the chicken meat along with a handful of uncooked, short grain rice, some cilantro, and some spices. I then chopped up some carrots, celery, onion, and potato for the soup base that was made with chicken stock and fire roasted tomatoes, along with a special ingredient:
Smoked almonds! I ground them up in a food processor before adding them to the soup, hoping that they’d give the soup some body along with enhancing the smoke flavor of those charred tomatoes. Then plop, plop, plop! I set the meatballs into the soup to let them simmer and cook through. No extra mess of browning in a pan of grease. Simmering the meatballs in the broth did several things: it imparted more meaty flavor to the stock, softened the rice in the meatballs so that it was tender, and made the meatballs themselves soft like dumplings. Topped with a handful of fresh cilantro, this soup with its subtle heat and bright flavors, was the perfect twist on chicken noodle soup when sick.
- 13 oz ground chicken
- 1/2 small white onion, grated
- 2 medium cloves of garlic, grated on a rasp or finely minced
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup uncooked short grain rice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 medium stalks celery, chopped
- 1 medium jalapeno, diced (seeds removed if you’re a wuss)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (yields about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 small red potatoes, diced
- 4 cups chicken stock plus 2 cups water
- 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 oz smoked almonds, ground in a food processor
- hot sauce to taste
- salt and pepper
- chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients and mix with your hands until just combined. Roll into 1 inch meatballs and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, jalapeno, and garlic and saute until onion has softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes, chicken stock, water, fire roasted tomatoes with their juices, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and ground almonds. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Gently add meatballs and continue to simmer for 30-35 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Serve in bowls, garnished with fresh cilantro.