My culinary point of view is rather simple, it is an attempt to combine the two major influences in my life together on one plate. Whenever I set about planning a dish, I always think of ways to incorporate the flavors of Mexico and Italy together. Whether its simply swapping herbs such as parsley with cilantro, adding chile to tomato sauces, or re-constructing classics such as risotto with infusions of tequila and finishing with fresh chorizo, I am always on the hunt for an angle.
So when Marx Foods sent me a few ingredients to sample and asked me to do a guest post on their website, I immediately jumped at the opportunity and I spun through the Rolodex of recipes in my head, thinking which ingredients of theirs I wanted to showcase. I stopped on Albondigas, a delicious Mexican meatball, which in my family, is often stuffed with some bits of hard-boiled egg, a mint leaf, and served in a chipotle sauce. I have always wanted to use quail eggs in my cooking, yet never really had a vehicle to try them. Well, here was my chance. What if I swapped the bits of hard-boiled egg with a hard-boiled quail egg? So I contacted Marx Foods and straight away, was shipped some of their Dried Chipotle Moritas and some Quail Eggs.
My vision for this dish was to use fresh ground beef, some Integrale rice that I had left over from the Marx Foods Integrale Gauntlet (of which I was a finalist!) as a binder, add some fresh herbs and spices, serve it with a delicious polenta, then top it off with a fresh chipotle-tomato sauce! You will notice that I do not use egg as a binder in my meatballs. In my version, I will add some 1 day old baguette soaked in milk in addition to the rice. The trick here is that you need to get the quantity of binder exactly correct or you will have a meatball that breaks when it is cooked, or on the other end of the spectrum, an overly dry meatball.
To accompany the meatballs, I envisioned serving them atop a warm deliciously creamy polenta. In my family, polenta was often served with meats and gravies, so this was a perfect fit for my dish. For this polenta I decided to use goat cheese for the mantecatura instead of Parmigiano. I love goat cheese and I think it add a certain je ne sais quoi to what was often considered a peasants food.
Finally we top the meatballs off with a fresh tomato and chipotle sauce using those chipotle moritas. Chipotles are all the rage these days and are used as a flavor enhancer in a variety of dishes. But did you know that there are different varieties of chipotles, each giving a distinct color and flavor? There is the chipotle meco, which is more of a tan color and gives a more smokey, earthy flavor to dishes, and the chipotle morita, which is a more purple color, and gives a bit sweeter, less smokey flavor. Although the meco is the more superior chipotle due to its full flavor (as it is smoked longer), moritas are great with this sauce because of their more pliable nature, which allows for you to blend these well into sauces.
So once the meatballs are formed, browned, stewed and served with this delicious polenta, pop the cork on your favorite full-flavored Malbec, I recommend the Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino, and enjoy!
Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta
● 1 cup of polenta
1. Combine the milk, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Once it comes to a boil, take the polenta and stream it into the water whisking continuously as you add it in to ensure there are no lumps.
3. Simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes, whisking often.
4. If the polenta gets too thick of a consistency, add a little more water in 1 tablespoon increments until it reaches your desired consistency.
5. After 30 minutes add the butter, stir.
6. Now add the goat cheese and stir until there are no lumps of cheese remaining.
Albondigas in Chipotle-Tomato Sauce
● 8-10 quail eggs
1. Hard boil the quail eggs by placing on a stove in a medium saucepan with enough cold water to cover the eggs and an extra inch. Toss a pinch of salt into the water.
2. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once they come to a boil, boil them for 1 minute, then turn off burner and cover. Keep the eggs covered for 5 minutes.
3. After those 5 minutes, immediately plunge the eggs into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Let them bathe for about 3-4 minutes.
4. Peel the eggs and set aside.
5. Take the chipotles, place them in a small saucepan and boil them in water for about 10 minutes. Then cover and set aside for 15-20 minutes.
6. Take the rice and rinse until the water runs clear. Then place in a saucepot in water and bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
7. After 15 minutes, drain, and then set the rice aside and allow to cool.
8. In a food processor, take the bread and pulse until it is a nice chop, them place in a bowl and cover with the milk. Allow them to soak for about 10 minutes.
9. In the food processor, combine the onion and the garlic and pulse until they are a nice fine dice. Place them in a large mixing bowl.
10. Combine the meats into the mixing bowl.
11. Chop the thyme and the parsley and place in the mixing bowl.
12. Add some salt and pepper (I used about 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tsp of white pepper).
13. Add the manchego cheese.
14. Take the bowl with the bread soaking in the milk and empty the milk, now squeeze out the milk for the pieces of bread and put the bread into the mixing bowl.
15. Add the cooled rice to the mixing bowl.
16. Now the fun part! Get in there with your hands and mix the ingredients.
17. Take a handful of meat, a little smaller than a major league baseball, and flatten in your hands to form a relatively thin patty. Take one quail egg and one leaf of mint and place in the center of the patty. Close up all sides of the patty and form your meatball. It is VERY important to ensure that there are no seams in the meatball or the meatball will break open when cooking!
18. Once you have formed all your meatballs, cover and place in refrigerator while you prepare your sauce.
19. Take 6 roma tomatoes, 1 clove of garlic and a bit of onion (just a peel or two) and place in a blender. Blend!
20. In a large saucepan, stockpot, or dutch oven, bring 2 tablespoons of oil to a shimmering heat.
21. Dump the tomato puree into the pot (be careful, it will splash!) and cook on high heat for about 1 minute, then turn the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.
21. Take the chipotles, drain them, reserving just about 3 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Then remove the stems, seeds, and veins for each chile.
22. Blend the chipotles with the reserved liquid. Add them to the tomato sauce.
23. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes more to incorporate the flavors. Turn to low.
24. Take the meatballs out of the fridge and brown them off in a large sauté pan, brown BUT DO NOT BURN all sides of the meatball. Then place each one in the saucepot with the chipotle-tomato sauce.
25. Simmer on Medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes.
26. Now take a serving of the polenta and then place 1 or 2 meatballs in the center of the polenta, take about ½ cup of the sauce to put over the meatballs. Pour a glass of Malbec and enjoy!
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