Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feliz Navidad

My father, Pops O'Food, is a prodigious cook. Usually, and without heed to any pleas for moderation, the output from his kitchen will resemble something akin to Ford's Detroit production line. Every year, I invariably gain five pounds and have a reputation around town as being - shall we say - an ambitious eater. But it's only because he keeps putting food in front of me! So before traveling to Arizona to spend part of the Holidays with Pops this year, I emailed him with firm instructions not to cook a thing until I got there. All was for naught. He came back with the notion of Mexican food for the week. I know a lost cause when I see one, and acceded to his plans with alacrity.
Mexican food unfailingly reminds me of when my stepmother Anita was alive. God, she could cook. Like me, she absorbed her skills at the feet of her parents. Growing up, I was dependably at her elbow whenever she was in the kitchen. One memory immediately leaps to mind reflecting on those times, her Mexican rice "secret". After toasting her rice and adding the liquid to the saucepan, she would deftly dip an index finger into the broth, claiming it added sweetness. My naive eight-year old mind accepted that like some kind of golden nugget. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. Anita also had a real fondness for albondigas soup, so when Pops suggested a Mexican holiday menu, I insisted on us taking a stab at one of her favorite dishes.
Pops perused the Internet for recipes and we used a couple of those as a launching point for our own effort. I think Anita would have been pleased with the result. There were certainly no complaints from my father and me between slurps.
Albondigas soup ingredients
Albondigas Soup - A recipe inspired by Anita Roberts
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, roasted
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • Salt & pepper to taste
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground meat, egg, brown rice, spices, and half the onions, form into ping pong-sized balls. Heat peanut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot and brown meatballs in batches on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomato, chili powder, roasted garlic and remaining onions, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add vegetables and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Serve hot with crispy fried corn tortilla strips. Makes 6 servings.
Combine meat, egg, rice and onion Form into small balls Albondigas meatballs
Brown meatballs in peanut oil All stock, tomato, and spices After 45 minutes, add vegitables
Remember last year's visit to Lake Havasu? Pops allowed me in the kitchen for a couple of dinners and spent the rest of the time bragging to all his golfing buddies about what a good cook I was. I don't know how he managed it, but this year I was bucked back down to KP duty. What I really suspect is that my father gets as much joy out of cooking for others as I do. In any event, he's always looking for ways to wait on me, as I am by nature a most independent fellow.
What a time we had. Anita's name came up several times, usually at the table. I treasure every loving repast shared with my father. I'm already aching for the next one.
Albondigas Soup
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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