Poblano Albóndigas with Ancho Chile Soup
There is something to be said about a meatball. They're akin to the nice boy that you gently let down, saying you'd prefer to stay friends. Then after you've carried on and had your fill of exotic and wild 'dishes', you realize that the meatball really does have it all. Meatballs aren't complicated, they're not pretentious and they don't flaunt themselves about. They're humble, unassuming, abashed even. And yet they are so inherently satisfying and comforting. There is no limit to the possibilities and versatility of a meatball. They've been around for centuries and are featured in every culture around the world. But not all meatballs are created equal. The ideal meatball is tender and moist, full of intense and layered flavor. And while a meatball really is one of the simplest dishes to prepare, it requires a delicate hand and a little dose of patience.
This month, Bon Appetit named meatballs their "Dish of the Year". I'm sure the recession had a hand in the resurrection of the meatball on restaurant menus and in many home kitchens this year. Affordable, delicious and homey - what more could you ask for? Though I intend to make all five featured recipes, their Mexican inspired Poblano Albóndigas with Ancho Chile Soup immediately called out to me. I am infatuated with Mexican soups, with their heady aromas, earthly spice and kiss of heat from chile's. So on a particularly cold Floridian day I set out to make this soup, certain that it would knock the chill right out of me. Within an hour and a half the soup was on the table and I eagerly tucked in. The chile flavor was strong up front with a background hint of lime, but to my disappointment the flavors didn't linger on the palate. I was surprised to find that the soup didn't really pack a punch - something that you'd expect from several tablespoons of ancho chile powder, cumin and Mexican oregano. The meatballs were succulent and tender, with a much more balanced flavor and saved the soup from being a bland failure. The crisp tortilla strips provided a nice contrast in texture even as they softened. I reluctantly graded this recipe a B as I had wanted it to be so much more. After a night in the fridge, I warmed up the soup for lunch the next day and was delighted to find the soup I was expecting in the first place. The flavors were balanced as they'd had a chance to meld and develop overnight, which in my opinion is where this recipe went wrong. The ingredients and method are all there, but the timing is off. The recipe says the soup is ready in about 20 minutes once you add the meatballs to the broth and they are cooked through. While the soup is "ready" in 20 minutes, you're doing yourself a disservice to ladle it up right away. I would recommend leaving the soup on low heat for at least another hour, preferably more, in order to allow the flavors to meld. The meatballs will have time to flavor the broth and the chile and spices will mellow and become one with the soup. If given time, this is a soup to add to your regular rotation.
Poblano Albóndigas with Ancho Chile Soup - Bon Appetit, January 2010
Difficulty - Easy
Flavor - B as written, A if given more time for flavors to meld.
- After tasting the recipe as written, I did end up adding about 1 more tablespoon of lime juice as I found it was lost otherwise.
- This soup would also be delicious with some diced avocado added when served.