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Regarding the albondiga caldo, I have to say that when I was growing up in Mexico, we would add un-cooked rice to the meat mixture. The rice would cook in the albondigas. It makes the soup more filling and softens the albondigas.
--Rose Smith-Saldivar, El Paso, Texas

Carol Thomas, raised in California, cites a lifetime of experience in saying that cooked rice should be added to the meatballs--very authentic!

Mexican Albondigas Soup

(Caldo de Albondiga)

This superb and superbly flavored Mexican soup--contributed by Margaret Pacillas of El Paso, Texas--can be a wonderful start to a meal--or a completely satisfying meal in itself. Serve hot to 8-10 as a substantial first course. Serve hot to 4-6 over a big spoonful of Spanish rice (with lots of salad and tortillas on the side) for lunch or dinner.

  • 3 onions, finely diced
  • 3 Tablespoons bacon grease
  • 2 16-ounce cans of tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup roasted green chile peppers (or one 4-ounce can of chopped green chiles)
  • 3 quarts weak beef stock (if you're making a meal, reduce the amount to 2 quarts)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 corn tortillas, sliced into tiny, short slivers
  • 1 lb. extra lean ground beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Garnish: strips of warmed flour tortillas and a slice of lime

In a large soup pot, saute the onions in bacon grease. Cut the tomatoes into the pot, reserving their juice, and cook down for 10-15 minutes. Add the reserved tomato juice, stock, green chiles, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the soup is simmering, make the albondigas: mix the ground beef, corn tortilla slivers, egg, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, salt, and pepper. Shape into tiny (marble sized) balls.

When ready to serve, carefully drop the albondigas into the simmering soup. When they float, turn the heat off, cover the pot, and hold for 10 minutes (unless you like your garlic really strong--in which case, serve immediately!).

If you are serving a meal, put a big spoonful of Spanish rice in each bowl first. Otherwise, ladle the soup into bowls, garnishing with fine strips of warmed flour tortillas topped by a fresh cut lime round.

* * *

--From Candi McCart of Tahoe, California: "Adding mozzarella cheese to the top when you serve the soup is great. My favorite Mexican restaurant adds cheese to the recipe and it melts into the soup."