That’s what I think/say when I make anything with meatballs. It’s just a reflex and since it means “meatballs” in spanish, it works. Don’t test me on my knowledge of foreign languages, though…okay? Cause, I will surely fail. Food SO is much easier to understand.
Anyway, this soup begins with searing little, spoonable chicken meatballs flavored with lots of fresh cilantro, some sauteed onion and garlic, and a bit of minced jalapeno for heat and excitement. Once the meatballs are brown and crispy-golden we sauté some more onion and garlic, another jalapeno, plus some carrots. There’s some corn (frozen is totally acceptable) and zucchini in there for health and science. Dried New Mexico chiles ground into a powder and cumin flavor and color the broth. More cilantro is added to brighten the party and bring the soup together. This soup is hearty, but not heavy. The clear broth is light but packed with subtly spiced chile flavor and the meatballs are tender and so flavorful with the cilantro and aromatics. This soup is so warming and with a super cheesy quesadilla on the side, it’s perfection on a cold day.
Cilantro-Chicken Meatball Soup
I find whole, dried New Mexico chiles in the international aisle of my regular supermarket. They are always affordable and pack a lot of flavor. The chiles vary in spiciness, but aren’t ever really super-hot-blow-your-top way. The spice is mild to medium, but you could certainly sub in your favorite chile powder.
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if desired), minced
1 lb. ground chicken
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
In a sauté pan heat olive oil and sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook over medium until onions are tender and translucent Scrape into a bowl and set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl mix together the cooled onion/jalapeno mixture with the ground chicken, cilantro, egg, and breadcrumbs. Add salt (I used about 3/4 teaspoon) and pepper. Mix gently to combine well. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to shape and sear meatballs.
2 Tablespoons oil (I used grape seed, light olive or vegetable oil work too)
1/2 large onion, diced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if desired), sliced
4 dried New Mexico chiles
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 carrot, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
cilantro to garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Shape meatballs, I shoot for something that fits nicely in the spoon and can be eaten in one bite–think larger than a marble, but smaller than a cherry tomato. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil over medium high heat in the bottom of a dutch oven or soup pot. Sear the meatballs in batches until deep golden brown all around. Place seared meatballs in a dish and set aside.
Over a gas burner (you could also do this in a hot oven, it may take a few more minutes), lightly char the chiles–the idea is to make them extra dry for easier grinding and to add a touch of smokey flavor. Cool chiles and grind in a spice grinder to a medium-coarse powder. Mix chile powder with cumin and oregano in a small bowl. Set aside.
Add the onion to the remaining oil and whatever brown bits are left in the pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and sauté, being sure to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan, add the carrots. Cook until onions are just translucent and carrots begin to soften, add the garlic and jalapeno, cook an additional minute. Stir in the ground chile and other spices. Add the corn, zucchini, meatballs, and chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, taste for salt and season as needed. Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook an additional 15 minutes, until the zucchini is tender and meatballs are heated through. Serve hot with additional cilantro for garnish.