Kennedy, an expert on Mexican cuisine, says that every region of the country
has a meatball recipe. This one comes from Mexico City.
6 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
6 sprigs fresh marjoram, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
8 peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 garlic cloves
1 slice stale bread
12 ounces ground beef
12 ounces ground pork, with some fat
1/3 cup long grain rice, partially cooked*
1 large egg, hard-cooked and finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
6 chipotle chiles, dried (not canned)
2 tablespoons pork lard or vegetable oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
About 2 1/2 cups beef broth or water
Heat the broiler.
Meanwhile, make the Meatballs: put thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, cumin, peppercorns,
salt, milk , raw egg and garlic in a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour mixture into a bowl and soak the bread in it until mushy, then add the ground
meats, rice and hard-cooked egg, work well with your hands. Form into 24 meatballs,
each about 1 1/4 inches in diameter; set aside.
To make the Sauce, first place tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and broil about
3 inches from the heat, turning once, until charred and slightly mushy.
Heat a griddle or comal (a Mexican griddle), or a nonstick skillet and add the
chiles. Cook, turning occasionally, until they become soft and flexible. Slit chiles
Heat lard or oil in a heavy pan, and fry the chiles, flattening them with a spatula,
until very dark brown, almost black.
Remove from the pan, leaving the fat. Place chiles and broiled tomatoes (skin
on) in a blender and blend until smooth.
In same skillet, fry the onion gently, without browning, until soft.
Crush the garlic, cumin and salt together in a mortar (or spice grinder). Add
two tablespoons water - to clean the mixture out - and pour the mixture into the
pan with the onion. Fry, stirring and scraping, over high heat until almost dry,
then add the blended tomato mixture and dry over medium-high to high heat, stirring
and scraping the bottom constantly, until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
Add the broth and meatballs - the sauce should just cover them - cover the pan,
reduce heat to low, and cook gently, turning meatballs occasionally, until they
are cooked through and spongy, 30 to 45 minutes.
Yield: 6 servings
* To partially cook rice, follow package directions, but cut the cooking
time in half, turning off the heat after about 10 minutes instead of 20.
Source: Adapted from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico (2000, Clarkson
Potter) by Diana Kennedy.