Sopa de Albóndigas

If this were any more delicious, it would be made illegal and declared to be soup abuse

Albóndigas are meatballs, and sopa is a soup, so this is just meatball soup. A Spanish sopa is always full of nice things to eat, a stew as much as a soup, and this soup, likewise, is hearty, making a meal in itself. The recipe is for as much soup as can be made with a can of Campbell's condensed chicken broth--two normal servings or one serving if you are really hungry. The recipe can be doubled or halved as desired, and none of the measurements are in the least critical.

Start by putting a half cup of long grain or basmati rice and a cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn the heat way, way down, cover, and let it steam for about 25 minutes. Then take it off the heat and let it cool down. The rice does not have to be fully cooked, if it does not happen to be at this time.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the soup base. This is basically a can of Campbell's condensed chicken broth with one can of water. Put it in a saucepan, and add one onion, chopped fine, one carrot, chopped fine, and one stalk of celery, chopped fine. Add a handful of chopped fresh cilantro--this will be a lot, and cilantro is the featured taste of the soup. Cilantro, they say, is an acquired taste, and this is probably a good place to acquire it. Let the stock simmer while you make the meatballs.

Mix a half-pound or a little more of 80-20 minced beef with the rice in a bowl (there should be somewhat more meat than rice). The 80-20 beef will give a nice, rich soup. If you are strongly antifat, use meat with less fat, but the soup will not be as rich, and the meat will be a little dry. The 80-20 will by no means give excess fat, however. Add a teaspoon of oregano, some chopped garlic, some chopped fresh cilantro, salt, and some finely chopped onion or powdered onion. I used powdered onion. Any reasonable amounts are all right--adjust to suit your tastes. Mix this all up pretty well into a ball.

Now make an albóndiga by tearing off a little bit of the ball of meat and rolling it between your palms until it is round. It should be about the size of a large marble, no more than an inch in diameter, enough for a single bite. Repeat 31 more times. Each will be a little sphere of gustatory delight, so do not begrudge the effort.

Now take the pile of albóndigas and put them in the simmering pot of stock. Add a half-cup or so of hot salsa to add piquancy. I suppose chopped peeled Jalapeños and some chopped tomato would do the same thing, but the salsa is easy. At this altitude, I let the soup simmer for about 45 minutes before declaring it ready to eat. It is good right away, but after a day in the fridge it is even better. Incidentally, the fat-hater can skim the soup easily after it has been cooled, removing the solidified fat on the top. There is not very much, however.

The soup is equally delicious in the heat of July or the cold of January. It can be frozen to be ready in an emergency as well. It really needs no accompaniment, since it is meat, veg and potatoes all in one.

I thank Fischer's Low Fat Mexican Recipes (Phoenix, AZ: Golden West, 1998) for some suggestions.

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Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 17 July 2001
Last revised