How to Cook Waterfowl Albondigas

If you don’t know this Mexican dish, just think of it as cheese-stuffed meatballs

A spread of goose albondigas.
A spread of goose albondigas.

When you think of meatballs, your mind probably books a ticket to Italy or maybe Sweden. But as chef and outdoorsman Ford Fry reminds us in his cookbook, Tex Mex: Traditions, Innovations, and Comfort Foods from Both Sides of the Border, Mexico has a glorious meatball tradition all its own, called albondigas.

We’ve taken Fry’s ­borderland ­version—​which is cheese-stuffed, ­tortilla-​laced meatballs roasted in a crimson ­ancho chile sauce—and made it a ­little wilder with the ­addition of some ground goose breast. But for a similar flavor boost, you can swap in duck, venison, or wild boar.

To round out this filling meal, consider sipping a glass of tequila. Volans, a new premium tequila from a family of Idaho flyfishing guides, is worth seeking out.

Ingredients - Serves 4

For the sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. lard
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeds mostly removed
  • 11⁄2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1⁄4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

For the meatballs

  • 2 Tbsp. lard, plus more for ­browning as needed
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 corn tortillas, chopped into small pieces
  • 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
  • 1⁄2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 tsp. oregano (Mexican if possible)
  • 1⁄2 lb. ground goose breast
  • 1⁄2 lb. ground pork
  • 1⁄2 cup cubed Oaxaca cheese (about 8 cubes) or buffalo mozzarella
  • 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1⁄2 cup sliced radishes
  • 2 serrano peppers, sliced
  • 8 to 12 corn or flour tortillas
meatballs with a Oaxaca cheese cube.
A cube of Oaxaca cheese goes into the center of each meatball before cooking.Photograph by Christina Holmes/Roscoe Betsill (Food and Prop Styling)

Directions

  1. Make the sauce: Melt the lard in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the broth, anchos, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chiles have softened, 10 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and purée until smooth. Add 1⁄4 cup water and purée to combine. Taste and add salt as needed. Set the sauce aside.
  2. Make the meatballs: Melt the lard in a medium nonstick sauté pan set over ­medium-​high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tortillas and cook, stirring frequently, until the tortillas have softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the heavy cream, ricotta, egg, salt, and oregano. Process the mixture until it is smooth and looks like a batter.
  3. Put the ground goose and pork in a large bowl and use your hands to combine them well. Add the batter to the meat mixture and use your hands to combine well. ­Portion the meat mixture into 2-ounce balls, making about 8 meatballs.
  4. Cut the Oaxaca cheese into as many cubes as there are meatballs. Press a cheese cube into the center of each ball and reform the meat mixture into a ball, making sure to completely enclose the cheese. Set the meatballs on a baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Fill a large Dutch oven with melted lard to a depth of 1⁄4 inch. Heat the lard over medium-high heat. When the lard is shimmering, add the meatballs, in batches if necessary, and cook until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Transfer the meatballs to a roasting pan. Roast until dark golden brown, 25 minutes.
  6. Drain any fat that has accumulated in the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and return them to the oven. Roast until the meatballs are cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately with cilantro, radishes, serranos, and tortillas alongside.

This article originally appeared in Vol. 125, No. 1 of Field & Stream.

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