Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Green Chile Pinon Meatballs

These sweet, spicy little meatballs are a tasty treat for holiday parties. The great thing is, the ingredients are just what most New Mexicans have on hand in the winter – frozen green chile and ground beef. For the past few years I've been making an effort to buy local meats. Last year, we received a share of grass-fed beef from Ranney Ranch as a wedding gift. This year we decided to try out Keller's Farm Store in Albuquerque – they raise their own free-range cattle and poultry near Moriarty. Los Poblanos Organics also sells local meats, including pork and lamb. If you're interested in purchasing local meats, you can find information on New Mexico farms and ranches at http://www.eatwild.com/products/newmexico.html.

Although I've modified it quite a bit, the inspiration for this recipe comes from one in the PNM cookbook, Cocinas de New Mexico. I'm a big fan of this little book - it's packed with tried and true recipes for all the staples of New Mexican cuisine, including how to make your own tortillas. It makes a great gift for those who love New Mexican food but didn't grow up learning to cook it – my mom and sister actually asked me to send it to them for Christmas this year. You can order it online at http://www.pnm.com/community/cocinas.htm, and all proceeds go to the PNM Good Neighbor Fund, which helps customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills.

The original recipe called for a lot of sugar, but when I fried the meatballs, the sugar came out and burned in the oil. So I reduced the sugar and added onions to make a more savory meatball, which can be served with a sweet green chile sauce. I also added piñon nuts – the fruit of our state tree, Pinus edulis, New Mexico piñon is especially prized for its buttery flavor. There wasn't a big crop this year, so local piñon might be hard to find, but I have seen a few guys selling them by the side of the road in Santa Fe and Rio Rancho lately.

Meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
1 T. brown sugar
¼ C. raisins, finely chopped
¼ C. piñon nuts
¼ C. onion, finely minced
1 t. allspice
3/4 t. salt
½ C. green chile, finely chopped
oil for frying

Sweet green chile sauce:
1/2 C. green chile, finely chopped
1 T. brown sugar
¼ t. salt

Combine meat, sugar, raisins, piñon, onion, chile, allspice and salt in medium bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands, and form into 1-inch balls (about 1 T. each). Heat enough oil (I used canola) to cover the bottom of a large skillet, on medium-high flame. Fry meatballs in batches, 1-2 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels. Mix green chile, sugar and salt to make a sauce to serve with meatballs.
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