Spicy Chipotle Mexican Meatballs with Adobo Sauce

Sometimes I just can’t make up my mind. Sometimes I want Italian. Sometimes I want Mexican. Sometimes I want it all, and, as I’ve said before, necessity is the mother. Well, this wasn’t so much as a necessity thing so much as an I’m-being-indecisive-and-difficult thing. Anyhow, I now present to you (drumroll, please) Spicy Chipotle Meatballs in Adobo Sauce! I swear I can already hear the applause.

OK, so while this is super easy, there are a lot of steps. But thank goodness for photo-heavy food blogs, right?

For this recipe, you’ll need:

Meatballs:
1 cup onion, diced (I used Vidalia because I cry less)
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/2 cup cubanelle pepper, diced
1 1/2 pounds ground 80/20 beef (you could go leaner if you choose)
1 egg
1 cup plain bread crumbs, fresh or store bought
1 teaspoon garlic power
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons sea salt

Sauce:
4 cups beef or pork stock (I made pork carnitas, so I used the stock from that)
1 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I blend the entire can in a blender and use it for a multitude of things. I always have it in the fridge.)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Cornstarch and water slurry
Salt and pepper to taste

Now that that’s settled, here’s how do put this all together. It’s much easier than all the ingredients make it look.

To begin, take the diced pepper, onion, and sliced garlic and sautée it in a nice, heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Use about tablespoon of olive oil for this.

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Add pinch of salt and keep the veggies moving constantly for about 3-4 minutes until they’re completely translucent. Once they’re done, put them in a large mixing bowl to cool.

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Next, make your meatball mixture by putting all of the ingredients from the above list into the mixing bowl with your cooled, sautéed veggies.

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Gently work it through with your hands (your hands are the best tools for this job) until you’ve got a homogenous mixture. It should come together quickly. Now form evenly sized meatballs that are about 1.5″ in diameter. To do this, I gently roll them between both palms.

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Now, in the skillet you’ve already used to sautée the veggies, add another tablespoon of olive oil and turn the heat to medium-high again. Once the surface of the oil starts shimmering, carefully add the meatballs one by one. I use tongs for this because hot, splattering oil is painful. Once all of the meatballs are added to the pan in a single layer, give it another minute.

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With your tongs, carefully start turning them over starting with the ones you first put in the pan because they’ll be the brownest. (NOTE: If you can’t brown the meatballs in a single layer, do two batches. They won’t get all caramelized and yummy if they’re too crowded.)
Feel free to turn them to every side to get each spot, brown, but one turn should do it.

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Once they’re done, transfer them to a plate. Feel free to leave whatever goodies are left in the pan as it’ll just add flavor to the sauce you’re about to make. Add the stock to the pan and bring the heat to medium.

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Next add the blended chipolte in adobo and the tomato paste.

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Whisk it together to break down all the lumps. (NOTE: Use a silicone whisk if you’re using a non-stick pan.) Bring this to a simmer.

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Now, make a cornstarch and water slurry. This just means that you’ll take a few tablespoons of cornstarch and whisk it together with water. The measurements don’t have to be exact at all. And this is precisely why cornstarch is my favorite thickener. It’s very forgiving and you can add the slurry to hot liquids with little or no danger of clumping or having a funky-tasting final product. For my slurry, I did three tablespoons of water with a half cup of water.

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Whisk it in, little by little, into the simmering sauce. It won’t thicken instantly, so go slowly until you get the thickness you like. I added my whole mixture because I like it thicker. Again, let it simmer for a couple of minutes, and give it a taste. Add salt, pepper, or any other spices (even hot sauce) you like. If you do opt for adding hot sauce, I’d recommend something like the Chipotle Tabasco. The smokiness will work perfectly with this. Once you’re happy with it, add the meatballs back to the pan.

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Let simmer for about ten minutes to let all of the flavors incorporate. Your house will smell incredible.

I served this over yellow rice with some sweet corn. I know that color combo isn’t the best for photographs, but my tummy loves it.

Happy eating, everyone!

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