My first experience with albondigas, a Mexican meatball soup, was in the home of a friend. Her mother, recently widowed, had just come to live with her. Eugenia and her deceased husband had run a Mexican restaurant that people came to from three counties. The food was phenomenal.
With her husband gone and the restaurant sold, Eugenia was now cooking for her grown family. I qualified. She served me a bowl of albondigas because I kept hanging over the pot, inhaling deeply. The aroma could drive you crazy if you thought you would be gone before the soup was served.
What I provide here is my version of Eugenia’s albondigas. She wouldn’t mind the changes. She is all for flavor and adding whatever makes your heart sing.
Heat up a half gallon of beef broth. An optional addition is a half bottle of stale beer. The alcohol cooks out. What is left provides a fine richness to the flavor of the broth.
When broth is hot, add small meatballs. If the meatballs are going to cook in the soup, cook them thoroughly before going on to the next step. (I like to make 100 or more meatballs to put in the freezer for moments like this.)
Add onion and potatoes.
When the potatoes are almost done, add 3 tomatoes that have been skinned and diced. If you don’t have access to fresh tomatoes, add a can of tomatoes, juice and all.
Place one bunch of cilantro in the top of the soup. Press it down just below the broth line. You will be pulling the cilantro out when the soup is ready to serve, so you want it handy for the pulling. In the meantime, this herb is adding a delectable touch to this soup. Don’t leave it out!
In about ten minutes start checking for the done-ness of the squash. Cook it according to your likes and then turn off the heat.
Ladle and serve.
There is no wrong way to make soup. Add as much as you like of what you like. I like meatballs and so I add quite a few. Suit yourself and your family.
One note on this soup: It gets better with age. The flavors blend and mellow like few other soups. The ideal would be to make it a day ahead. If you can do that and not have any albondigas on the first day, let me know. You’ll be the first.