Albondigas ! The mysterious Mexican soup
By Tim H. Martin
Trout Quest leads to a mysterious soup.
I had never even heard of Albondigas Soup until I saw it on the appetizer menu at Ed’s Cantina in Estes Park, Colorado. The discovery came in the fall of 2017 after three difficult days of fly fishing for cutthroat trout, an endangered species found in remote lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
This Alabama flatlander was content to rest his blisters on his pregnant toes in one of Ed’s comfy cabins and replenish the calories wasted on the alpine trails with their hearty Colorado-Mex cuisine. After covering 34 miles – 107 floors of elevation gain in 72 hours, to be exact – I had deserved a sparkling meal.
Not knowing Albondigas, I asked the waitress to give me some information. With a good Spanish accent, she says, “It’s pronounced Al-bone-dee-gus, which means meatball in Spanish. It’s a traditional Mexican comfort food, and ours is REALLY good.
I ordered a large bowl to go with my fish tacos, and she wasn’t kidding. The sweet heat of the spices and searing meatballs warmed my frozen insides to the core, and I immediately knew Buckmasters fans would love this mysterious soup.
If he thaws frozen deer hunters like this tired trout fisherman, Albondigas won’t remain a mystery for long.
American fish: cutthroat trout, greenback
Greenbacks were declared extinct around 1930, but rediscovered in 1957. Maybe that’s why I think they’re so special and a fish I have to hunt. Or maybe it’s because the physical difficulty of accessing these gems means that few anglers will catch one.
I believe this fiery little trout is the most beautiful freshwater fish in the world. Catching one means miles of strenuous alpine hiking – usually above 10,000 feet – in remote and hidden places.
The continued recovery of the greenback into exploitable populations is remarkable. In 1994 it became Colorado’s official fish, although I think there is a justification for this truly native species being declared an American fish.
Ingredients for meatballs:
2 pounds. lean ground beef or venison
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup store-bought crackers or breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon of garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste
Remaining soup ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
6 cups of water
1 cup of your favorite salsa
2 cups onion, chopped
7 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cup celery, sliced
4 cups new potatoes, skin on, finely diced
2 cups carrots, 1/2-inch slices
1 15 ounces. cans of black beans, well drained
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Fresh cilantro and lime slices for garnish
* Other possible ingredients: corn, diced squash, zucchini and / or tomatoes
Prepare all chopped food while the rice is cooking. When the rice is cooked, mix all the ingredients for the meatballs, then use an ice cream scoop to create golf ball sized balls.
In a pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat, then add all the diced vegetables and sauté until the onions, garlic and celery are tender. Add the water, salsa, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots and potatoes have softened.
Add the meatballs and black beans, then simmer for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving in bowls. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime slices.
– Photos courtesy of Tim H. Martin