I have been using this recipe I found here on epicurious.com for several years now, as a monthly regular item for our dinner menus. It was great the first time I made it when I followed all the steps exactly. But over time I have modified it a bit, and I think I have a better version now. Because I always seem to get requests for this recipe when we serve it for friends (and it was a success, once again, when we had it 2 nights ago) I thought I’d post what I do :-)
I crossed out the ingredients that I don’t use in my version and put all my modifications in red
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 3/4 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 small bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
5 14 1/2-ounce cans beef broth
7-8 cups chicken stock (we usually have a ton of homemade batches hanging out in our freezer or I use the organic containers from Costco)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa (medium-hot)
4 cups salsa (this is our homemade stuff)
4 cups water
1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 pound bulk pork sausage
6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp salt, maybe even more – because I pretty much always up the salt :-)
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
I use either 2 cups uncooked brown rice or quinoa – but each has a different prep step, so look for specifications below
Preparation: (this whole section is in red because I have pretty much changed everything!) Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté 5 minutes. I take out 1 cup of the onions and set them aside for the meatball mixture (that is because I just don’t like raw tasting onions in my meatballs…) Then add to the pot 2 garlic cloves and bay leaves; sauté 1 more minute then add the stock, the salsa, and 1/4 cup cilantro; bring to boil. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
After this has simmered, I take out the bay leaves and then puree it all (in batches). I just think it makes it a bit creamier, but this step is not necessary at all.
If you are cooking brown rice, you would put it in at this step. It will need at least 45 minutes to cook in the soup. If you are going to use the quinoa, you can let it cook when the meatballs are put in near the end. If you are new to cooking with quinoa, you do have to rinse off the grains before using them.
For the meatballs, you will combine the ground beef, pork sausage, cornmeal, whole milk, egg, salt, pepper, cumin, the remaining 1 cup onions, 2 garlic cloves and 1/4 cup cilantro in medium bowl. Mix well. Shape meat mixture by generous tablespoonfuls into 1- to 1 1/4-inch balls.
The original recipe says to add the rice and meatballs to the pot to cook together. But I found that the meatballs are on the mushy side and create a ton of grease in the soup when you do it that way. Instead I like it better when you bake the meatballs on a cookie sheet at 350 for 30 minutes first (while the rice is cooking). Then you can pick them up out of all that grease and they have a little browning to them before going into the soup.
Once the rice/quinoa and meatballs are all in the soup, I let it simmer about 20 minutes more.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and add some grated Monterey jack cheese and sliced avocados. Serve and enjoy!
Now I have probably made this sound way more complicated than it really is, but trust me, it is not that involved! And the end result is so yummy. This soup also freezes very well, so you can easily multiply the recipe to make more and freeze for a later time.