Serve this recipe to guests who enjoy and appreciate the foods of Mexico. Using Mexican oregano and cinnamon adds to the authenticity of the dish. Make this combination a day ahead to enhance the flavors. —Marilyn Wilkinson
For the meatballs
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley
1 large white onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
3 eggs, beaten
3 slices coarse white bread, crust removed and soaked in 1/3 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the sauce
6 large ripe tomatoes, or 1 can (28 ounces) fire-roasted whole tomatoes, drained
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, peeled, quartered
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 to 3 canned chipotle chilies in adobo (to taste)
2 to 3-inch piece Mexican cinnamon bark, or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons coarse (kosher) salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup olive, or vegetable, oil
1 sprig mint, or pinch ground dried mint
2. Meanwhile, for the sauce, if using fresh tomatoes, place on a cooking sheet and broil, turning once or twice until the skins blister and blacken, about 10 minutes. Peel the skin off tomatoes and place the peeled (or canned tomatoes) into a blender or food processor. Put the garlic and onion into a hot, dry skillet and cook, turning occasionally, over medium heat, until the garlic is lightly browned and the onion is lightly scorched. Add to the blender along with 1/2 cup of the broth, chipotles to taste (start with 1), cinnamon, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste, and add more chipotles if desired.
3. Heat oil in a large, heavy, and deep skillet over medium heat until quite hot but not smoking.
4. Add the tomato mixture and “fry” until it thickens (it will splatter), about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 cups broth and heat to a boil. Stir in mint. Taste again, adjust salt and pepper, and add some adobo from the canned chilies if not spicy enough.
5. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs (about 1 inch diameter); the mixture should make 60 meatballs. Add the meatballs to the sauce. Shake the pan once or twice in the first five minutes of cooking to prevent sticking. Simmer slowly until the meatballs are done, about 30 minutes.