It’s raining balls

Meatballs, that is. My husband loves, loves this dish. He smiles, even giggles as soon as I say it’s on the stove. Alb贸ndigas聽are the Latin American version of the Italian meatball. This dish, like most dishes with a pan sauce or gravy, improves overnight. All the flavors get to hang out, know each other and get happy. That doesn’t mean you have to make it ahead, just make enough to have some leftovers and have everyone in your office drool over your lunch.

The alb贸ndigas聽are moist and flavorful as they are helped by the聽addition of bacon and seasonings. Then they’re simmered in pan drippings and beer on the stove top, leaving you with a light sauce that you can pour over your rice.

For the meatballs:
2 lbs ground chuck
1/2 cp diced bacon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Jugo Maggi (or Worcestershire sauce)
1/2 cp onion, finely diced
1/3 cp red bell pepper, finely diced
2聽tsp garlic puree聽(3 cloves)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cp bread crumbs
1/4 cp ketchup

For the sauce:
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cp Italian parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 cps tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed garlic (1-2 cloves)
1/2 tsp habanero sauce
2聽cp beer (about a bottle, minus a few sips for the chef)
Sea salt and pepper

Preparing the meatballs ~ Combine the ground beef, 聽bacon, onions, garlic, bell peppers in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg, add ketchup, salt, black pepper, Maggi and mix thoroughly. This will allow the condiments to be聽mixed evenly when you add it to the meat. Once you have combined the聽 meat and seasonings, making sure it is all well incorporated, mix in the bread crumbs.聽 You are now ready shape the alb贸ndigas. I like making them rather large-a little larger than聽 a golf ball-you can make them as large or as small as you’d like. However, keep in mind that the fat from the聽beef and bacon will cook down, so don’t make the meatballs too small.

This amount of beef will make about 15 meatballs. You want to use a pan with a tight-fitting lid, once you’ve shaped your alb贸ndigas, heat up the pan. Add about 1 tsp of oil to the pan and spread it around the bottom using a paper towel or brush.聽 Gently place the balls in the pan, don’t crowd them. You need enough room between them to be聽able to turn them. When the meatballs are browned on all sides, remove them from the pan and set aside. You may need to brown them in 2 batches.

Some of the fat from the meat will have been rendered聽on聽the pan, add the onions and bell pepper and cook until the onions begin to get translucent. Add the tomatoes, garlic and parsley and stir; you may have some dripping at the bottom of the pan, don’t be afraid of these, they hold all the flavor from the meat. The moisture from the tomatoes will make it much easier聽to incorporate the drippings.

Add the habanero聽sauce and beer. You need to have enough sauce to cover the albondigas; adjust your seasonings if necessary. Bring the sauce to a boil, then add the meatballs, spoon some of the sauce over the top of them. Cover and reduce heat to medium and allow it to simmer for 35 minutes. Do give them a stir every once in a while, you want to make sure they albondigas are absorbing the flavors from the sauce.

Remove the lid and allow it to cook for another 10 minutes. The meatballs will be fully cooked by now, what you’re doing at this point is reducing and thickening聽the sauce.

Listo! They’re ready to serve over rice. I usually serve these with white or yellow rice. The last time I made them I served them with Arroz con Guand煤; a very traditional dish in Panama. Follow the link for that recipe.

I hope you’ll enjoy this dish as much as we do, don’t forget to let me know how it turns out.

Cookingly yours,