When my January issue of Bon Appetit arrived and I saw meatballs on the cover, I was less than thrilled. I don’t have very fond memories of meatballs from childhood (sorry, Ma, but there’s plenty you do better!) I started to come around when I met my husband – he swooned me with his balls. No, not those ones! Turkey balls, simmered in spaghetti sauce (nope, not even homemade, but it was good enough for these non-Italians!) served over piping hot pasta. But now, I can’t remember the last time we’ve had that meal. Not because we’re married and I do 99% of the cooking, but rather, because pasta is almost off-limits in these parts.
I flipped to the meatball feature anyway, and found the kind of ball I’d like to throw around in my kitchen – a Mexican style meatball favored with roasted poblano peppers, simmered in a rustic ancho chile soup. The soup included grated zucchini in addition to the more traditional rice, which intrigued me. I decided to give it a shot, with a few touches to lighten it up. First, I swapped all beef for chicken – what could be wrong with a chicken meatball in chicken broth? Next, I swapped the breadcrumbs in the meatball mixture for oats. Mostly because my panko was ridiculously old, but it also bumped up the healthiness factor. I found the meatball mixture to be quite loose, understandably because I used such a lean meat. Therefore, it was pointless to pre-form the meatballs, but they held their shape perfectly when I scooped them up with a cookie scoop and dropped them right into the simmering soup. Since the recipe called for pure ancho chile powder, and I had some dried chiles hanging around in the cabinet, I just crushed those up in my spice grinder. Brown rice replaced the white. Finally, I baked the tortilla strips instead of frying them. Obviously!
We were quite happy with this soup – it’s hearty and the spice warms the soul on a chilly winter night. The meatballs had their own distinct flavor from the roasted poblanos, and turned out light and tender. The grated zucchini was a great way to add lots of texture to the soup, without lots of extra calories and carbohydrates by using more rice. Overall, a very successful healthyfication!
Poblano-Chicken Albondigas with Ancho Chile Soup
Adapted from Bon Appetit
2 large poblano peppers
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 cup coarsely grated zucchini
1/4 cup finely grated onion
1/2 cup plain oats
1 large egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large dried ancho chile peppers
8 cups reduced sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1/4 cup brown rice
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lime juice
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
Chopped fresh cilantro
Roast the poblano peppers. This can be done on a grill, over a gas burner, or under a broiler. First, spray the peppers with nonstick cooking spray. To roast them under a broiler, place on a baking sheet and under the preheated broiler. Cook for a few minutes, until the skin is blistered charred, then turn, and continue to cook until the pepper is charred on all sides. Alternatively, grill the peppers (or hold over the gas burner flame) on each side until the skin is blistered and charred. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When cool enough to handle, the skins will easily peel off. Peel, seed, and chop the peppers. These will keep in the refrigerator for at least a few days, so this step may be done ahead of time.
Combine the meatball ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chicken is finely chopped and all ingredients are well-combined.Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes. Meanwhile, seed the dried ancho chile and tear into smaller pieces. Grind to a powder in a spice or coffee grinder to yield 3 tablespoons. Add the chili powder and garlic to the onions, and cook one minute more. Add the broth, water, and oregano and bring to a boil. Add the brown rice, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes.
With the soup at just a simmer, using a small or medium cookie scoop, form the meatballs and drop them into the soup one by one. Add the zucchini, cover, and cook gently (do not let the soup come to a boil) for about 20 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 450F. Place the tortilla strips on a baking sheet and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until crispy. Just before serving, stir the cilantro and lime juice into the soup. Season to taste with salt, and add more lime juice if necessary. To serve, garnish bowls of soup with tortilla strips and extra cilantro.
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 9.2 g
Cholesterol: 118.9 mg
Sodium: 1,431.5 mg
Total Carbs: 49.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.2 g
Protein: 36.2 g