Spanish-style meatballs, or albondigas, were a popular food in old Californio kitchens. Encarnación Pinedo included an entire section on albondigas in The Spanish Kitchen, including versions served in soup, versions made from chicken, and even versions that combined Spanish cooking techniques borrowed from other cooking traditions, like “Italian-style” meatballs with cheese in them. Here, in The California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook, Bertha Haffner Ginger combines albondigas with another popular California dish, stewed beans—a delicious combination. Haffner’s original recipe doesn’t specify what kinds of chiles to add to the beans, but poblanos, which are popular in California, work wonderfully. Photo: Josh Wand.
- If using poblano chiles: Char the chiles on a grill or under the broiler, turning as necessary, until all of the skin has blackened. Place the charred chiles in a paper bag, seal the end of the bag, and let the chiles steam in their own heat for 10 minutes. Remove the chiles from the bag and carefully peel off the blackened skin, pull off the crown, and remove the seeds. You can rinse the chile in running water if necessary to remove any remaining skin and seeds.
- In a large pot, bring the beans and beef stock to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the beans are tender, 2 hours or longer (depending on the age and size of the beans). If the beans take a long time to cook, you may need to add a little water to the pot to keep them submerged. When the beans are cooked through, add the onion, chiles, and tomatoes, and simmer everything together until well-cooked, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. Add the meatballs just before serving and garnish with cilantro.
- Mix the meat with the eggs, soaked bread, pimento, cilantro, and salt, and let sit a few minutes so the flavors blend. Form the mixture into small, loose meatballs and roll each in bread crumbs. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a pan and fry the meatballs, turning occasionally, until they are brown on all sides.
Photo by Josh Wand
Georgia Freedman is a freelance journalist and editor based in the Bay Area. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Afar, Martha Stewart Living, Rodale’s Organic Life, Roads and Kingdoms, and other food and travel publications including Saveur magazine, where she was previously the managing editor. She is the author of the upcoming cookbook Cooking South of the Clouds—Recipes and Stories from China’s Yunnan Province (Kyle Books, September 2018).