28 April 2012

Albóndigas de Jalisco - Diana Kennedy

Sometimes a love of a culture will change a person so dramatically that their life's work becomes a mission to encapsulate the best of the culture in their everyday lifestyle ... and they end up becoming the ultimate ambassador for that culture. In the world of food, we have seen numerous such ambassadors as we've investigated Gourmet's 50 Woman Game Changers - Julia Child and her love of French culture and cuisine, Elizabeth Andoh and her passion for Japanese philosophy and cuisine, and now, Diana Kennedy and her immersion in Mexican culture and cuisine.

She has lived and worked in Mexico for the past 50 plus years, with forays out and about to other places, but she always returns to her adopted country. Her knowledge of Mexican plants, animals, peoples and food is encyclopedic and she has been cajoled by other foodie greats to share her passions with the world. The results have been stellar cookbooks, cooking classes, and interviews that reveal an extremely particular personality - one with strong opinions, a sharp tongue and wit, and an exacting attitude toward foodstuffs and cooking technique. The foods she makes are simple, yet perfect because of her close attention to her ingredients' quality and her exacting preparations. She takes an almost anthropological approach to her recipes, using native ingredients, insisting on preparation techniques that approach the regional techniques.

Diane Kennedy may be considered somewhat of a culinary curmudgeon, but who cares when you have it so right in the kitchen.

 "In Mexican cooking, the sauce is more important than the meat because meat can be scarce."
                                                                                                                     - Diana Kennedy

I chose to make another meatball recipe ... SB and I love our meatballs and I always make big batches because we love them left over for lunchs. The following recipe is an adapted recipe that I found while researching Diana Kennedy. It was posted on a Mexico Cooks!, a site hosted by Cristina Potters. It was a very different taste experience because the meatballs have an such nteresting herb/spice combination - mint, oregano, cumin and the serrano chile heat. The sauce is a very mellow sauce also ... the tomato and chile heat is tamed by the stock that is added to the simmering sauce. The overall effect makes for  was a smooth and soft flavour experience when eaten over steamed white rice. Try it and see what you think!

Albóndigas de Jalisco
adapted from a Diana Kennedy recipe

Meatball Ingredients:

1 ½ tbsp. long grain rice
Boiling water
¾ lb. ground pork
¾ lb. ground beef
2 small zucchini (6 oz.), chopped to a fine dice
2 eggs
a scant ¼ tsp. dried oregano
4 sprigs fresh mint
1 chile Serrano
¾ tsp. salt
a scant ¼ tsp. ground cumin
⅓ of a medium white onion

Making the Meatballs:

  1. Place the rice in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Set it aside to soak.
  2. While the rice is soaking, place the eggs, spices, Serrano, and onion in a blender bowl and pulse to make a semi-smooth slurry.
  3. Place the meats in a deep bowl, add the diced zucchini, and mix together with your hands.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the meat, drain the rice and add it to the mix.
  5. Smush everything together and form meatballs that are about 1 ½ inch in diameter.
  6. Set them on a plate and refrigerate while you make the braising sauce.

Sauce Ingredients:

3 medium plum tomatoes (1 lb.)
1 chile Serrano
Boiling water
3 tbsp. lard, vegetable oil, or peanut oil
1 medium white onion
5 c. rich broth – chicken or beef
Kosher salt, to taste

Add-ins for Serving:

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into sticks
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks
Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

Making the Sauce and Finishing the Dish:

  1. Boil water in a saucepan and gently drop the tomatoes into the water, letting them blanch for 5 minutes – or just until the skins split. Remove the tomatoes and peel the skins from them.
  2. Place the tomatoes, chopped onion, Serrano chile in a blender bowl and purée the mixture.
  3. Heat the oil/lard in a flameproof cooking pot. Turn the tomato sauce into the hot oil (be careful! This is a spattering event – explosive!) and stir, stir, stir for about three minutes.
  4. Add the broth, turn down the heat to a low simmer.
  5. Add the meatballs, cover the pot, and let everything simmer very gently for about an hour.
  6. After the first hour of cooking, add the prepared carrots and potatoes and return the cover. Continue simmering for about half an hour. Prepare some rice while the dish finishes cooking.
  7. To serve, place a serving of rice in a large shallow bowl and top with a couple meatballs and a spoonful of the vegetables and sauce. Garnish with cilantro and parsley.

Note: Now that you've seen my take on the 45th Game-Changer on Gourmet Live's list, travel on over to Mary's blog One Perfect Bite to see what everyone else has posted and written on Diana Kennedy. It will surely be a Mexican feast for the eyes and the stomach!


  1. It's interesting because I had the same opening thoughts to my post as well, because the last couple of weeks we've had queens of different cuisines! LOL Love the recipe you picked. There's some great flavors going on in that meatball!

  2. Looks lovely. I think it is interesting how many cooks have a sharp sense of humor. Perhaps that humor is required to get through recipe trials, failures, and eventual success.

  3. There's a meatball restaurant in NYC. We need to go there. These look oh so good - and no - mine didn't have mint. I would be curious - is it there for balance?

    1. I wondered if it was there to play nice with the serrano chiles and cool the palate a bit ... it worked well with the carrots and potatoes in the mellow tomato/broth sauce!

  4. I like the mint in there, Susan. Your meatballs look really good and I bet those chiles give them a nice kick!

  5. I love meatballs too (but hardly ever make them for some reason) and these sound different and interesting, in a good way! Your whole dish look scrumptious Susan and I'm sitting here wishing I could have a plate for lunch.....

  6. These really were delicious and can be made in a variety of ways. The leftovers for me will be sandwiched in between taco layers and topped with guacamole and con queso cheese!

  7. That looks really delicious. It's always great when the side vegetable are cooked along with the meat. It really adds to the whole final dish. I also like her use of zucchini and mint in the recipe.

  8. Loved your post! Your meatball dish looks fabulous and sounds even better! Nice job!

  9. Sorry to be late. I'm running a day behind in my correspondence and while I hate not being prompt, life sometimes gets in the way. Your meatballs sound delicious and the recipe was a perfect choice to highlight Diana's style. I hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend. Blessings ...Mary

  10. Your description of the meatballs and photos are wonderful. I'm a meatball fan and look forward to trying these. I love how everything simmers together in one pot. Diana certainly followed her passion didn't she.

  11. i really like julia child and her lighthearted gungho approach to food. diana kennedy is new to me, and I'm glad you introduced her to me. that dish looks just SO GOOD i could tuck into it now.

    on a side note, i just wanted to add you have GORGEOUS cutlery. omg i've just been looking through the past posts and am eyeing all the plates, pots and pans you have. are they vintage? jealous!

    1. Ha! Shu-han, you have discovered my weakness! i love to collect plates, platters, dishes, and increasingly spoons and serving pieces so that the photos of food don't all look the same when styled for the camera ... I've yet to make the 'board backdrops' but have some vintage towels etc that I use ... thanks for noticing!

  12. These meatballs sound incredibly good - I've really enjoyed learning more about Mexican food through the study of Diana Kennedy.

  13. Thanks to all of you who enjoyed either looking at or eating Diana Kennedy's recipe for Jalisco-style albóndigas (meatballs). For those who asked, mint is a traditional Mexican herb that is almost always used in albóndigas.

    I'd like to invite everyone to come visit me at Mexico Cooks! (http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com) and learn much, much more about the cuisines and cultures of Mexico. You'll have a great time, I know!



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