For some, leftovers are the lowest form of food; I have heard them referred to as “used food”. I take a slightly different approach, thinking of myself as a “green” cook who is constantly up-cycling dishes from one meal to the next as I find new ways to incorporate the same old thing. I figure, if I’m going to be cooking already I might as well make a large portion and save myself some time and trouble later. This week’s recipe features mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower) which is an item that’s pretty high on my list for recycled food. You can go with the standard mashed veg as a side for meatloaf, turkey, ham, etc. and then use the leftovers in a Shepherd’s Pie, for potato pancakes, in homemade donuts, or you can serve them with my grandmother’s Mexican Meatballs.
The memories I have of my grandmother preparing her Mexican Meatballs are linked to large family gatherings – really large gatherings. My mom is one of 9 so if you rounded up the siblings, their children, and their children’s children, you’d end up with more than 40 wildly different yet wonderful people. Because of, or perhaps in spite of, this close association between this recipe and my family, Mexican Meatballs definitely make my list of comfort foods.
It’s a great dish to serve when you’ve got a houseful, especially if you use leftover mashed potatoes or if you have extra hands around to help. The mashed veg is actually the most difficult part of this recipe if that tells you anything. I like using mashed cauliflower or a combination of mashed cauliflowers and mashed potatoes, especially for this recipe where the vegetables are going to be smothered in delicious homemade sauce. The tomato-based sauce is similar to a spaghetti sauce but seasoned with cilantro which gives it a significantly different taste. I know there are some die-hard cilantro haters out there and if that’s where you are this may not be the best recipe for you. I really don’t think you could omit the cilantro entirely but I have found using cilantro bullion gives you the same flavor profile with a much more mild taste.
The beauty of these meatballs is that they cook in the sauce, eliminating a long and sometimes messy step and enhancing the flavor of the sauce. You can make your meatballs however you like though I’ve included the way I make them as a reference. I will tell you that the longer you can let this simmer the better it will be. My mother would say you absolutely have to let this cook most of the day. I’ve made and served this within the span of an hour and, while the meal was certainly good, it did prove one thing: my mom, as per usual, was right.
I made a big batch of these this week to enjoy at an impromptu gathering with friends and my sweet and supportive crew were so eager for the recipe that I feel confident in telling you you’re really going to like this one.
This week, may your time with friends and family be sweet, may your gatherings be filled with laughter, and may you know all the joy this season has to offer.
The Home Grown Mom’s Mexican Meatballs
Inspired by a recipe from my amazing Nana, Esther Bingman
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I actually used a combination of Panko and toasted quinoa with great results)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
2 14-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped (or 2-3 cilantro bouillon)
1. In a large and deep saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion is slightly translucent. Add the tomato sauce and cilantro bouillon.
2. Combine meatball ingredients and form 24 meatballs about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Drop the meatballs into the sauce.
3. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours at least, stirring occasionally to prevent the meatballs from sticking. The longer the sauce cooks the richer the flavors will be, just like my Momma said.
NOTE: Follow the link for Chef Juanita’s excellent Vegan Cauliflower Mashed Potato Recipe.