Sopa de Albóndigas (Colombian-Style Meatball Soup) Recipe

Sopa de Alb\u00f3ndigas (Colombian-Style Meatball Soup) Recipe

A soothing soup of beef meatballs poached in chicken broth. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Colombian-style meatballs are simple to make with the food processor and cook directly in a hot, seasoned broth. They're flavored with a mixture of onion and tomato known as hogao, along with capers. Crisp fried potatoes add texture to the finished soup.

Why this recipe works:

  • I modified my Aunt-in-law's recipe, which she makes with very lean Colombian beef, by adding more binder to keep the meatballs moist and tender.
  • The meatballs take a bit of time to shape, but once formed, there is almost no work: they cook directly in the hot soup.

Note: Fresh fried potatoes are the best, but if you want to save time, use packaged fried potato sticks.

  • Yield:Serves 4 to 6
  • Active time: 45 minutes
  • Total time:45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 small bunch cilantro, divided
  • 1 1/2 quarts homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Roma tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 large russet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into thin matchsticks with a mandoline
  • 2 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 slices white bread, crusts removed, roughly torn (about 1 ounce)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3/4 pound ground beef chuck
  • 2 tablespoons chopped capers

Directions

  1. 1.

    Pick 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and set aside. Combine broth, remaining cilantro stems and leaves, and Worcestershire sauce in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt and more Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover, and keep warm.

  2. 2.

    Heat olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomato, cover with water, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely soft and reduced to a thick purée, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to a wide, shallow bowl and place in refrigerator.

  3. 3.

    Rinse sliced potatoes under cold running water until liquid runs clear. Transfer to a kitchen towel or paper towels and dry thoroughly. Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add half of potato sticks and cook, stirring, until crisp but not darkly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl with a wire mesh spider and season with salt. Repeat with second batch of potatoes.

  4. 4.

    Combine bread, egg, and heavy cream in the bowl of a food processor. Process until a smooth paste is formed, about 30 seconds. Add beef, capers, and a 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and process until completely smooth and homogenous, about 2 minutes. Add onion and tomato mixture and process until smooth, about 30 seconds longer. With wet hands, form mixture into 3/4-inch balls (you should have about 24 balls).

  5. 5.

    Remove cilantro from pot of stock and discard. Add meatballs and cook until they float and a meatball cut in half is no longer pink in the center, about 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or wire mesh spider to transfer meatballs to a bowl. Skim fat from top of soup and pour soup through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot. Serve immediately, dividing meatballs between warmed serving bowls, ladling soup on top, topping with fried potatoes and remaining picked cilantro leaves.